The Tales of the Aoza
Aoza 「青座」is the name given to the Head Priestess of the Hirata Shrine. Its name means One Seated in the Blue, and her jobs include taking care of the poor, and feeding travellers that come and go from the Royal Capital. When a Priestess ascends to become the Aoza, they renounce their birth name, and up until the murder of the very last, they are known apart from each other by their nicknames.
Residence: Hirata Shrine, outside the Imperial Palace.
Qualities: Kind, loving. The next Aoza is chosen by the previous one, and is said to be possessed by the soul of the Kind Woman who descended from Heaven to help mankind.
Duties: Management of the shrine, feeding the poor, giving aid to wandering travellers. She is the voice of the common people, and is generally a commoner herself. On festivals she exits the shrine to lead prayers to the Kind Woman, and gives the blessing of the common folk to each new Emperor or Empress.
Notable Aozas: Shimmering Light, the last Aoza; Empress Aoza, who was kicked out of the line of succession and claimed to be the daughter of a commoner; Futile Hope, who threw herself into Lake Hirata in grief and sorrow.Entry about the Aoza from the Citadel's Collection:
In the far east, in the country of Hainan, therein lies a strange custom. Where we have The Common's Voice, they have the Aoza, the highest ranked priestess who serves as a conduit between their Emperor and the common folk. She is garbed in the finest robes, and carries out many important religious affairs such as the festivals to welcome in the new (such being the new year, a new Emperor, and so on).
Heart & Soul
It is said that in Lake Hirata, lies the heart of the Priestess, in the form of a white dragon. It protects all those in Hainan, and when glimpsed, is a pure, shimmering white, just like the heart of the priestess. While the Citadel's collection says that sightings of it is no more than the sun sparkling on the lakewater, it should be noted that the lake itself is sometimes strangely stormy, even on the calmest of skies, hinting at an underwater source.
The Last Aoza, Shimmering Light
I feel the pressure of time sink into my heart
And with every passing day,
I feel its beat softly ticking away
And with every passing eternity,
I open my eyes and am blind again.
It's been too short. Too short.
Ma'am, there are reports that the eastern gate has bee breached. It will do you know good to stay out here in the open.
I nod. They help me to dress, and we make for one of the catacombs. I look, dazed, at my attire: normal gear for a commoner, so that they will not notice what I'm wearing. At least someone has common sense. We pass two guards, each with a red smile, gruesome to look at. One of them has his eyes open in shock, and the other is slowly dying, and we can hear his final breaths. There isn't even enough time to give the dying one mercy, so we continue walking down this long corridor. How cold of us to do that, I muse. How very cold.
We make it through an exit behind a scroll, and that is when I realise we're headed for the tombs. Safe enough, as no one would dare to desecrate them, but apart from the main entrance, this is the only other exit. We will be stuck like fish in a painting if they come after us. Someone is waiting for us with a torch, and I take it and light our way. I watch it slowly flicker in the darkness of this situation. I pray for everyone's safety, and especially for those guards we saw brutally murdered. How they never found us after that must be a miracle. To think if we were any earlier...
I hear a soft thud and whirl around, skirts flying. NO. NO.
Everyone is dead. Faces in shock. Life ebbing away. How... did I not notice this?
Looking a little dazed, ain't ya, sweet one?
I... I recognise that... that smiling face. It's the guard. It's him. Wasn't he dying? Nothing makes sense anymore. I stare at the blood on his neck, and realise we've been fooled. What a fake smile. I back away, and my back presses against a door. Cold. Hard. My heart is fluttering, failing. I have nothing to say anymore.
Awh, don't be a spooked horse, come here. I promise this won't hurt a bit.
Such a despicable grin.
I throw the torch at him, and watch in grim pleasure as he writhes around in agony. I run past his burning soul, past the dead bodies, past the closed tombs, and an eternity passes until I make it out the painting exit.
The light blinds me for a moment, and I take a second to adjust. A guard is there, and I reach out for help. He seems startled, but gives a cocky smirk.
If I had known that lovely maidens came flying out of paintings, I would have taken this job sooner! Is something the matter?
He winks at me and I sigh. Men. It's the-
I stop. Why is he covered in blood? I blink. Are you okay? I try to touch the blood on his armour. New, not his own.
Ah don't worry about that, we just secured the perimeter. Can I help you with anything?
I look back at the painting. Please do, I'm the Head Priestess and I'll need some guards to-
For a brief moment, I feel time stop. And start again, with an incredible rush of pain. Blood covers the painting in front of me. Did someone die there? How incredibly sad.
It takes a moment for me to realise that it is my own.
Hmm? Raizer failed? Oh well, judging by the fact that you're still alive, a guard managed to stop him. And you were so pretty too, I didn't think that holy women could be so.
The sword slides out of my chest, and I slump to the ground. No strength left in my bones. As I feel my life blood slowly beat out, I hear some last parting words.
Just a little hint for your next life: you should have kept the fact that you were Head Priestess a secret. A sparrow is safer than a kingfisher, no?
Sayonara, Aoza Hirata.
It's been too long. Too long.
And with every passing eternity,
I close my eyes and see again
And with every passing moment,
I feel life's soft tendrils slip away
And with every passing breath,
I feel the weight of death on my skin.
CreditsCSS by Sunlit
Background from Fanshare
Image is a render from Deviantart by LarAmb.