“Spirits singing today.”
“Same as every other day,” Kai said, the street vendor smiling at her through broken teeth. The sky had broken over Beyul, the dark clouds pouring an endless stream of rain down on the inhabitants until the passages in the low rises turned to mud, old plasticrete pallets laid down to form a network of narrow bridges.
Kai took her Kham-dog. Most of the vendors offered their wares for free to her. Penance for misdeeds, but more often for protection from the thugs who laughed at the lawkeepers but took stock in the cosmic karma. Either way, she bit into the recycled protein and enjoyed it whilst the warmth lasted.
The Lamasery took up a sizeable corner of the sector, it’s great white walls streaked with red where the faux-wood paint had corroded away in the rain. One of the Samanera was sweeping out the water that had pooled in the entryway, the stubble on his head still raw, the scars beneath visible as the water dripped down his scalp, but he smiled as she approached and clasped his hands together.
Kai returned the bow. She knew the boy was struggling. He’d come from a broken creche. Something in the genes used in his pool. He’d gone from gutter to gang until he landed on their doorstep. Now he worked hard for his meals but knew he’d always have one. He just needed to leave the temptations of the City behind.
“Teacher?” the boy said halting his work in the rain.
Kai waited. The boy looked nervously, as if they would be overheard, but only the rats moved in the rain, their sounds drowned out by the pounding of water.
“The Emperors men, they came again this morning. They were angry.”
“It is in the nature of men to be angry.”
“I am sorry,” the boy said, tears welling up in his eyes before the rain carried them away. “I tried to follow your example. I tried to find my peace. But they said things about you. About the Way. And I couldn’t help it. I wanted to defend my home.”
She saw him move, pulling at the thin tunic he wore as if to protect his skin from the cold, but there beneath it was the scar. She flashed out a hand and exposed his flesh to the sky and felt her own anger rise. For ten years she had practiced, quietly, out of the way, giving guidance and Dharma only to those who sought it out.
But now the new Emperor would hear only the prayers to his own God. Who would expect nothing less than complete piety.
The cross was burned into the boys flesh. The wound was raw, ugly and brutish as if the man wielding the electric iron carried by all guardsmen wanted to maim rather than purify. She tore at her own hem and wrapped the cloth around the boys arm, taking care as he winced.
“Will we fight?” the boy asked.
“No. We will show them there are stronger ways to believe than with iron and fist.”
Prompt originally posted by Mutant_Llama1 on reddit and received 5 upvotes.