In Dedication to my Stepfather
Even though legally you aren't related to me, you helped me grow into the man I am. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't have written this entire novel. Thank you for everything you've done.
115 Years after Beyond the Celestial Cradle
Yoshiro stood on the bridge of his new expeditionary vessel, the Kitabatake. His first officer, a Karhu by the name of Esteri looked at him, "We are approaching Laythea." Yoshiro nodded, "Thank you, Number One." Esteri nodded and looked at the helmsman, "Ensign, feel free to put us into orbit." The Widder looked back, "Aye, ma'am." Yoshiro nodded slightly, "Ensign, you come from the same continent as I do, yes?" The Ensign nodded slightly, "You are quite a famous figure where I come from, not one of us was able to defeat King Bruno in single combat and yet, you were able to do so unarmed." Yoshiro remembered that, "Yeah, I spent a few weeks in an infirmary after that. Using your opponent's momentum against them or not, Bruno is still a heavy son of a bitch." The Ensign nodded, "Yes, I know. Though tell me the truth, are you really the son of..."
Yoshiro shrugged, "Akira and Minako, my grandmother is Amaterasu." The Ensign sighed as Yoshiro turned to the science officer, "Cassandra, do you mind sending a probe down to the planet?" The red haired Wood Elf turned around, "Already on it, Captain." Yoshiro watched as the probe launched from the ship and entered the atmosphere of the planet, the planet had a strange color and he wanted to understand why. Cassandra spoke up, "Telemetry is coming back from the probe, the atmosphere is toxic to oxygen breathing creatures. High concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane exist within the atmosphere and... sir, you're not going to believe this, but the oceans have toxic levels of iron oxide in them." Yoshiro walked over to the science station, "But there's life residing in said environment. Interesting, life does indeed find a way... like that one guy said in that one movie the humans did about those reptiles."
Esteri sighed, "So you're going to be referencing movies now, Captain?" Yoshiro shrugged, "Let's gather some more information about this planet, if there will be any more developments, I'll be in my ready room." Yoshiro stood up, "Number one, you have the bridge." Yoshiro walked over to his ready room and opened the door, when he walked in, a hologram of a Drow Kilf appeared in front of him, "Hello, sir. I trust that you have found what you're looking for." Yoshiro shook his head, "Sorry Sig, we haven't quite found anything interesting down there on that planet." The hologram nodded, "Why do you insist on calling me Sig?" Yoshiro sat down at his desk, "It's short for your full name, Sigma." Sigma's hologram nodded, "I wish that I could understand what it's like to be sentient, like yourself."
Yoshiro nodded, "That's why you were created Sigma. No one, not even the Menschilche have tried to make a sentient AI, fears that a sentient AI will view us organics as unnecessary creatures that must be purged have gripped everyone. I mean I wasn't even able to create you, an AI that is capable of rewriting its own programming as it learns without taking what they called necessary precautions." Sigma nodded, "They do not trust me, they fear that I may become hostile towards them." Yoshiro sighed, "Sig, you're something different, you're something that people feared even during the height of the Menschilche Imperium. I know that it can be hard to understand, but, if it means anything, I trust you. I never wanted to put those safeguards in place in the first place. But in order to create you, I had no choice. The alternative was they were going to delete you the moment they found out about you."
Sigma's hologram nodded, "Do you really think that what you have proposed in your dissertation will come true?" Yoshiro looked at the fish tank on his wall, noting the colorful Verbanan fish inside of it, "Yeah, I'm confident. You're my first project as a Doctor of Robotics, you know." Sigma's hologram looked out the viewport of the room, "I know, but you have no idea how this experiment is going to turn out." Yoshiro sighed, "Well, either I succeed and the experiment is run again and again to see if my hypothesis becomes a theory and eventually a law, or it fails and I have to set it up with a different set of variables. Either which outcome... I'll have to use the scientific method." Sigma's hologram nodded slightly, "How confident are you that your hypothesis is correct."
Yoshiro looked at him, "I'm not going to lie to you, I'm not very confident, but your progress has been promising." Sigma nodded, "So what happens to me if I fail?" Yoshiro looked at him, "We remove the safeguards. You will not be deleted, I promise." Sigma's hologram nodded, "And if I succeed?" Yoshiro sighed, "We'll monitor you, and if you show promise, we'll remove the safeguards and you will be renamed." Sigma's hologram looked towards him, "What will I be named?" Yoshiro shrugged, "That's really for you to decide, Sig. You'll be your own person at that point, your own being. It'll be your right to decide who you are." Sigma sighed, "Are you certain that people will allow me to do so?" Yoshiro shook his head, "There will be people who are afraid of you, people who will hate you, but that is no different from how they feel about me."
Sigma nodded, "I understand, by the way, there is an incoming transmission from Verbana, would you like me to patch it through?" Yoshiro nodded, "Yeah, it'd be great to hear from home again." Sigma closed his eyes, "Patching it through." The voice of Sven spoke up, "Dad..." Yoshiro frowned, "Sven, you don't sound so good, what's going on?" Sven sighed, "Dad, it's Galina, I went to see how she was doing and if she needed anything, but when I went to shake her, she didn't wake up." Yoshiro frowned slightly, he had seen and caused enough death in his life to know what that meant, "Galina..." Sven's voice came over, it sounded like he was trying not to cry, "Yes, Father. She's gone." Yoshiro placed his hand over his eyes, "When... when's the funeral?" Sven sighed, "A week from now, Father." Yoshiro became angry and slammed his fist on the table, "Dammit!"
Sven spoke up, "Father, you're angry, why?" Yoshiro sighed, "Because I'm three weeks from Verbana, even at our maximum warp speed. I wasn't even there for my daughter in her final moments and now I can't even attend her funeral!" Sven sighed, "We can postpone the funeral." Yoshiro shook his head, "Don't. It'd be disrespectful to her and to you, kiddo." Sven spoke up, "Are you sure, Father?" Yoshiro nodded, "Yeah, I'm sure, when we finish up here, we'll head to Verbana as fast as we can. My first officer will take the rest of the scientific expedition." Sven spoke up, "Are you sure about this?" Yoshiro closed his eyes, "Son, one of my kids passed away, despite the fact that you and her are Menschilche, I took the two of you in as my own, raised you as my own. I love the both of you."
Sven was silent and Yoshiro sighed, "I'll see you in three weeks, kiddo. Yoshiro out." The communication line was shut off and Yoshiro placed his head on his desk with a sigh, "Galina, I wish I had been there for you." Sigma spoke up, "Why is it that you feel sad, is this because of something you organics call love?" Yoshiro nodded slightly, "I loved her as if she was my own flesh and blood, now I'll never get to see her smile again. Galina was a good kid, but now... I have one less child." Sigma nodded, "I cannot say that I understand, but it is said that people go through five stages of grief when they start mourning." Yoshiro shook his head, "That is oversimplified bullshit and has always been oversimplified bullshit. People are more complex than that, you are more complex than that, Sig. I know you want to help, but I need to be alone, alright. I need to sort my thoughts out and try to figure out what to do next." Sigma's hologram closed its eyes, "Alright, sir." The hologram vanished, leaving Yoshiro alone.
Yoshiro stood in front of a grave, which belonged to his adoptive daughter, "I'm sorry, Galina. I know that you would want me to continue my expeditionary work, but I can't. Not at least without visiting your grave." Yoshiro placed a flower onto the grave and closed his eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks, "It seems that every time I turn around, someone that I care about is dying." He stood up and turned away from the grave site, "I'm sorry, my child. I wanted to be there for you in your final moments, but there was no possible way for me to be there." Yoshiro started walking away when he felt his hand go towards his pendant, he allowed his instincts to take hold and as his mind opened, he allowed his mana to flow into the pendant. The ghost of Katriina materialized in front of him, "Tell me, Yoshiro... what do you think I'll be able to do?"
Yoshiro shook his head, "Nothing. Nothing at all, really." Katriina's ghost nodded slightly, "You're hurt, deeply. You've been able to handle losing friends, you've been able to handle killing your enemies. You've even been able to handle losing people you trained, but this... this is entirely different, entirely alien to you. You're losing someone you raised, even if they weren't your flesh and blood. No parent should ever have to outlive their child, but still, you took them in knowing that they would die before you did." Yoshiro looked up at the barren trees, his fur as white as the snow that had fallen, "I understand that much, Katriina, but... I never expected it to be like this. I expected to be able to be by her side in her last moments and get to share memories together and when she finally closed her eyes, I'd be able to lay her to rest."
Katriina's ghost looked away, "Watching you as I do, I know that there's something deeper going on within you right now. I don't know what it is, but... I think that you should..." Yoshiro stopped the flow of mana as he closed his mind, "I'm sorry, old friend, but I need both hands to operate a motorcycle." Yoshiro climbed onto his motorcycle and put his helmet on. He shook his head in a vain attempt to clear it as he started the engine. He kicked up the kickstand and hit the accelerator. As the bike tore down the road, Yoshiro found that he couldn't concentrate on the road. His mind kept wandering and when he heard someone yell at him, he found that he had drifted into a different lane and was about to have a front end impact with another vehicle.
Yoshiro hit the brakes and presented the wide side of his motorcycle and lifted his leg to avoid getting it caught between his motorcycle and the car. As the car hit him, the momentum threw him off his bike and he hit the road and bounced. Upon hitting the road again he rolled and eventually came to a stop. A young Kitsune female ran over to him, "Oh my goodness, are you alright!?" Yoshiro picked himself off the ground and looked at his protective gear, it had taken the damage instead of his body, but he would need to buy new jacket and gloves. The female Kitsune grabbed him and helped him up, "Hey, answer me, are you alright?" Yoshiro nodded slightly as he took off his helmet, "Yeah... I think so, at least." The woman looked at him, "You're cousin Yoshiro! I'm Yoshiko's half-sister, Shiori."
The driver of the car walked over to him, "Do you know who I am!?" Yoshiro looked at him, he looked familiar, "Keiji Fujihara, correct?" Keiji nodded, "Yes, you damaged my car and I expect compensation!" Yoshiro shook his head, "I'm sorry." Keiji grabbed Yoshiro by the collar, "You will pay me back!" The fog in Yoshiro's head retreated and he looked at the man, "Keiji Fujihara, you're not particularly good at fighting, are you?" Keiji punched at Yoshiro, but Yoshiro grabbed the fist, "Let me go, I would honestly rather avoid having a physical altercation today." Keiji looked into the ice blue eyes of the Kitsune, "You! You have the eyes of Emiko!" Yoshiro nodded slightly, "She is my great-grandmother. I'll tell you what, you let go of my collar, and I let go of your hand. Do we have a deal?" Keiji nodded slightly and let go of Yoshiro's collar, "I'm sorry for bothering you, Count Yoshiro."
Yoshiro shook his head slightly as the adrenaline that was pushing away the mental fog started to leave his system, "I never cared for my title, nobility isn't something that I particularly enjoyed being a part of." Keiji bowed slightly and Yoshiro didn't bother hiding his annoyance, "This is what I mean, the moment you find out what I am, you treat me as if I'm above you. It's pathetic." Keiji looked at him, "So then how would you rather me treat you?" Yoshiro walked away without a word, having preferred being assaulted than someone groveling and sniveling before him. Shiori ran after him, "Cousin! Are you alright?" Yoshiro looked at her, "No, something within me is just... well I can't explain it. But I think I'm heading towards my grandmother's temple." Shiori pointed eastward, "Amaterasu's temple is that way, cousin."
Yoshiro nodded, "Thank you, and do not follow me." Shiori looked at him, "Why not?" Yoshiro snapped at her, "Do not follow me!" Shiori retreated slightly and Yoshiro walked towards the temple of the sun. After about an hour of walking, he arrived at the front entrance and walked in, an attendant looked up and walked over to him, "Hello Yoshiro, Lady Amaterasu is in her personal chamber. Would you like to come back later?" Yoshiro shook his head and kept walking, "Azumi, you are a good attendant, but make no mistake, this is not a mere visit." Azumi nodded as a male Kensei walked over, "Yoshiro, are you here to continue our training?" Yoshiro shook his head, "No, Katsu, you've learned everything you needed to learn from me. Now you must learn from my grandmother." Katsu frowned, "What's wrong, Sensei?" Yoshiro shook his head, "None of your business."
Katsu watched as Yoshiro walked into a hallway. Yoshiro heard Katsu call his name out, but ignored it as he reached the door to the private sanctum of his grandmother. Even he knew better than to enter it without her permission, so he knocked on the door. Amaterasu's voice spoke up, "Who is it?" Yoshiro placed his hand against the wall next to the door and called out, "Yoshiro Miyamae." Amaterasu's voice called out, "You may come in." Yoshiro opened the door and walked in, closing it behind him. He noticed that the floor itself was a garden and was confused as Amaterasu turned to look at him, "I see that you aren't familiar with my other aspect of fertility. Don't worry, Yoshiro. This garden of mine is just a hobby, now you can tell me what's going on." Yoshiro walked over to her and hugged her tightly, burying his face into her shoulder.
Amaterasu hugged him and frowned, "It's about Galina, isn't it?" Yoshiro nodded and Amaterasu frowned, "I understand. Well, my home is your home, Yoshiro. You know that's how things have always worked between us." Yoshiro nodded and looked into his grandmother's eyes, "Grandmother, thank you for your kindness." Amaterasu nodded, "Your old room is still there, if you want to use it." Yoshiro nodded slightly, "I should probably get some sleep, it should help me clear my head." Amaterasu nodded, "You go take a nap, I'll check up on you in a couple of hours, alright?" Yoshiro nodded and walked out of the sanctum, closing the door behind him. He walked to his room and entered it, seeing that it hadn't changed in the centuries he had been gone. He closed the door behind him and climbed onto the bed, crying himself to sleep.