The beautiful and agile ship docked in the harbor west of the capital of the territory of Tuwani'su'. Masu and his friends went to the capital. This was a city built on a plateau, perfectly square in shape, with wide and straight streets that split it in a perfect checkerboard. At the center stood the castle of the Shiti, the Zaya-Hato, with its four mighty towers.
The people of the city stepped back to let pass the four newcomers with their rich garments, wondering who these strangers could be. In fact, Masu was not wearing the regalia.
When they reached the entrance of the Zaya-Hato, the Wisa came forward in person.
"Who are you, noble To, where do you come from and what do you desire?" he asked politely.
Toma spoke. Pointing at Masu he said: "This is the Taota, who is back among us according to the prophecies. Go to your Shiti to announce his visit, so he can receive him with due honors."
"The Taota?" the Wisa asked, puzzled.
"Don't you believe me?" Toma asked.
"You see, noble To, is not that I do or don't believe you. I will not disrespect you, but..."
At that moment a young lord approached: "I heard what this noble To has said. I do not read any falsehood in his eyes, nor in the eyes of his companions," the young man said, and he knelt in front of Masu. "Welcome to your castle, Taota."
"Who are you?" Masu asked him, taking his hand and making him stand up.
"I am the youngest son of the Shiti, Lord of Lords."
"What is your name?" Masu asked looking at his clear, calm and pure eyes.
"I am the Tu Sebi-Nohoo, Lord of Lords."
"Well Sebi, take me to your father then."
"I will show you the way," the young man said.
The Wisa tried to intervene: "Tu Sebi, isn't it better to first..."
"I take all responsibility, don't worry," the young man replied in a clear and strong voice; he motioned the four to follow him.
The Shiti, his wife and other children were gathered in the throne room. The Shiti had a blue crown on his head.
"My Father," young Sebi said, "This is..."
"I have been informed... of who he is claiming to be. And you, my son, foolish dreamer, you have immediately believed it! Will you never change?" the Shiti replied frowning.
"Your son is not a foolish dreamer, man," Masu interrupted him.
"How dare you present yourself to me and tell me how should I treat my children?" the Shiti asked angrily.
"The crown, that you have on your head, was given by the last Taota to your first ancestor, his son. But apparently, generation after generation, your blood has been watered down in your veins," Toma said.
"Oh hear, hear! And who are you to dare to talk to me like that?"
"I'm the Shiti of Chuma, and your superior, even if just a little," Toma said.
"Or just another braggart? What do you hope to gain from this?" the Shiti asked sarcastically.
"Father, do not test your luck, please," Sebi said.
"Shut up, you good for nothing! Go and have fun with your boyfriend, ask him to fuck you, and leave me alone. As for you..." he said, turning to the quartet.
"Shut up man!" Masu snapped. "If you don't believe me, invoke upon us the judgment of the Kaoka. Let him show which one of us is right!"
The Shiti laughed: "The Kaoka! The God of Gods has forgotten about us men. You invoke him in vain, stranger!"
Masu made a small gesture to Ja, who promptly handed him the scepter. Masu lifted it up. "You recognize this? It is the scepter of the Taota. With its black sphere, it puts him in contact with the gods, of which the Taota is only one step below. Well, let the Kaoka let live only one of us, to show which side is the truth!" Masu said in a terrible voice.
The Shiti laughed. "Really theatrical..." he barely had time to say.
A bolt of lightning arose from the scepter. It mounted to the ceiling of the throne room, opening and closing like the petals of a flower, and fell on the Shiti, incinerating him. His crown rolled to the ground, stopping at Masu's feet.
Immediately everyone in the throne room, the Shiti's family, and all the To and So knelt fearfully.
Then Masu donned the mantle of eight colors, wore the crown of eight trapeziums, sat on the throne, and picked up the crown of the Shiti who just died, and said: "Come here before me, Sebi-Nohoo. You really deserve this crown, you will be new the Shiti of this territory."
"Taota, I am the youngest, the least experienced, I am not worthy..."
"You are pure of heart, your eyes are pure, and you have no fear of taking your own decisions, to make your own choices. You'll be a good Shiti, I feel it. Come and assume the responsibilities that I want to entrust to you."
"As you command, Taota." the young man replied, kneeling before him.
Masu put the blue crown on his head. Then he revised with him the territory's situation and, like to the others, gave him his new orders. Before leaving, the young Shiti asked him to perform the rite of fusion between himself and a young craftsman who was his lover. Masu gladly accepted.
Again boarding the ship, they turned their sails to the capital of Maba-Hane'nisuu, the territory that corresponds to the index finger. After they went up the fjord to the harbor of the capital, where Masu and his companions debarked, the ship circumnavigated the peninsula to the port on the east of the capital, where it would wait for them.
Masu went to the gate of the Castle of the Eight Quarters. Here he was greeted with a mixture of honor and mistrust. The Shiti did not show up, but Masu and his friends were treated with every consideration. Masu was losing patience, so he said to the Tu who took care of them that he "ordered" the Shiti to receive him.
The Shiti finally made him announce that he was ready to receive him. When Masu and his friends entered the throne room in the tower of state, the Shiti awaited him without the crown on his head. He knelt at Masu's entrance.
Masu sat on the throne and asked: "Why did you make me wait so long, Shiti?"
The man replied: "You must forgive me, Taota, but I'm an old man and, by my nature, rather suspicious. When I was told that a stranger who claimed to be the new Taota had presented himself to my castle, I gave orders to welcome him with full honors. But in the meantime I sent for an old magician, who I know since I was born... But that took some time, you see. The magician came and completed his spells. He saw and recognized you, and confirmed your words, hence here I am at your command. I know that my distrust deposes against me, so therefore..."
Masu smiled: "You have been honest in telling me the reason for this delay. And what you call suspicion, I would perhaps call prudence. But tell me, how could this wizard recognize me? Have I met him, perchance?"
"I don't know, he just told me that he recognized you..."
"Is he still here in your castle?" Masu asked.
"Yes, do you want to meet him?"
When the magician entered the throne room, Masu immediately recognized him as the magician, who had given him the five Blessings after doing his will to him...
"Leave us alone," he ordered the others. They all left.
"Do you remember me?" the magician asked, losing under his eyes the looks of an old man and assuming those of a strong young man.
"How could I forget that solemn fuck you gave me, See?" Masu laughed, then asked: "So you knew that I was destined to be the new Taota, and took advantage of me?"
"No, Lord of Lords, I saw you just as a warrior, and I felt those four curses weighing on you. I have put you to the test to check your generosity. You agreed to please a poor old beggar... Hence I threw on you my five blessings, as they were coming to my mind."
"You predicted that after the fifth blessing, the one of the four problems, I would know who I am..."
"I myself did not know more... So I just fucked a beautiful warrior, not our Taota," the magician replied.
Masu smiled and nodded: "Was it you who gave us something to eat in the desert?"
"No, it was one of my brothers, but I know what happened."
"And tell me, See, what do you wizards really look like?"
"Like this, or any other way... We are like the masks and the witches, with regard to our appearance, we can change it according to circumstances. But our magic is white and not black. Our role is to help people, not to damage them."
"You see, I'm getting used to being the Taota. It seems that I have some magical powers too, but maybe I need a guide. Would you come with me? Would you come to live in the Castle of the Needle with us?"
"A magician does not have a house, he never stays two nights under the same roof. His home is the woods and the mountains, his roof is the sky. You, who are just one step below the class of the gods, will eventually discover the magical powers you have... just as the opportunity arises. "
Masu nodded. Then he called the Shiti, and confirmed him in his office. He gave him his new orders, then prepared to continue their journey.
Landing just outside the capital of the territory of Makhi-Kimigasu', they found at the dock the Shiti with all his court. When they got off the white ship, the Shiti knelt.
"Great and noble Taota, the blessing of the Kaoka and of all the gods be upon you. I am honored to welcome you into the territory entrusted to me. Deign to be my guest."
"Get up, Shiti. I am glad to be your guest. The first time I visited your territory as a simple warrior, I've heard good things about you."
"I do my best to be a good Shiti. To be fair and to protect my subjects."
Once at the castle of Zakhi-Mihi, Masu asked the Shiti to tell him which were the problems of his territory, then gave him his orders. The Shiti nodded.
"Your orders are wise, Taota. I too have always thought that it is not right that the slaves are bought and sold like cattle, and also that our class system is too rigid. Therefore I welcome your orders with great pleasure. It was not in my power to change the rules, only you can do so and I'm grateful to you for having done so."
"You'll be a good adviser, Shiti. I will often need your advice. But tell me, I have not seen your Lady, nor your children..."
"My Lady died years ago... And I have sent my children here and there in my territory, to learn about the true life of our people. So when they come back, I can choose the best one to succeed me... with your permission."
"A good decision. Did you make them Tu of the provinces of your territory?"
"No, I made them dress as Manufacturers, Artisans and Merchants, because only so they can actually see and experience the lives of their subjects, and so know how to rule, when one of them will be my successor."
"Really a great decision. You are the best Shiti I've encountered so far. But now I have to ask you a favor..."
"Tell me, for you I will do everything in my power..."
"The first time I visited your capital, when I was a simple warrior, I met a craftsman aShini named Tara. Could you search for him? I would be delighted to meet him again."
The Shiti made a search for him and the same day the carpenter came to the castle. When he was in front of Masu, he knelt.
"Arise, Shini Tare, and look at me," Masu said.
The young man stood up and an expression of amazement came over his face.
"Do you recognize me?" Masu asked amused.
"Is that really you? You're not just a warrior then?" the craftsman asked, trembling.
"Yes, I really was when you received me in your bed. But tell me, Tare, do you have a lover now, or do you just have fun with your apprentice... and with passing warriors?"
"My Taota, I have a lover now, a young producer..."
"Are you really in love?"
"As much as two human beings are capable of love, Lord of Lords."
"I like you, Tare. And I do not say that only for what we did in bed. Even if we spent just a few hours together, I appreciated your generosity and helpfulness. So I would like you to come with me, to become the Zucha of the territory of Chuma, my High Craftsman."
"I would have to leave my shop..."
"Yes, you can leave it to your helper, I think."
"And leave my lover..."
"No. With the new laws that I issued, you can get married if you want. You could assume his social position, but I would like you to be my Zucha, and not become a producer."
"I'll have to ask him if he is willing to follow me... But if he does not want that, forgive me, I'd rather stay here with him."
"Fair enough. Let me have your response before I leave. If you decide to follow me, I will unite the two of you and you will come with me on my ship, to follow me to the Chuma."
Tare and his lover decided to follow him, and Masu united them with the rites. They all embarked and made sail for Mari-Yoonisu' and its capital.
Once in Yoonisu'-Wari, Masu arrived at Zari-Arechi, the castle with the circular portico. The door was locked. The Wisa appeared at the slit window above the door and asked him who he was and what he wanted.
Toma spoke for Masu: "He is the Taota! Open the door and receive him as is proper!"
The Wisa had a stunned expression: "The Taota? There's no more Taota here in Z'uyoote! How can he be the Taota?"
"It's not up to you to decide whether he is or isn't. Call your Shiti and tell him who's at his door. Hurry up!"
The Wisa retired. After a little while a Tu appeared.
"I am the eldest son of the Shiti. He is absent, he went to visit his daughter, the Shiti of Sanisu'. In his name, be welcome Taota, I will open the gate immediately."
Shortly after the door was opened. In the doorway appeared the Tu who had spoken and the Wisa. They both knelt.
"Forgive the wait, Great Lord of Lords, and accept my humble hospitality..."
Masu entered with his small following. "So are you the brother of that woman Shiti of Sanisu'?" he asked. Indeed there was a certain resemblance between the young man and that woman.
"Yes Taota, I am the oldest male, but the third child of our father. That woman is my elder sister. Do you know her?"
"Yes, I know her. A haughty woman..."
"You are charitable to call her that. She always thought of herself to be way above her brothers and sisters."
"But tell me, what is your name?"
"I am Tu Pae-Yaine."
"Are you going to be the next Shiti?"
"I don't know. I am the eldest brother, but our father has not yet decided who will be his successor."
"Tell me, how can you be sure that I am the true Taota and not an impostor?" Masu asked.
The young man looked at him surprised: "No one would dare to use the title of Taota, thus challenging the wrath of the gods. No man has ever dared to do that for five hundred and twelve years. The Epic announced the return of a new Taota, and five hundred and twelve is one of the sacred and perfect numbers, so therefore..."
"But if I were an impostor?" Masu insisted.
"The Kaoka would make you regret it bitterly..."
"According to some people, the Kaoka has diverted his face from us men, as he is no longer interested in us and in what we do..."
"But as long as his hand, immersed in the ocean, continues to keep down the gods of evil, as long as his hand will protect us, it is not true that he no longer takes care of us."
"Rare are the believers like you, Tu Pae-Yaine."
"Now that you're back among us, the consciences and the hearts will awaken and we will resume at last to perform the rituals at the altar of the Kaoka, that for too long was deserted and abandoned."
Masu nodded. He spoke at length with Pae and he liked that young man more and more.
The father of Pae, the Shiti, came back. The man vehemently rebuked his son - he did not believe that Masu was the Taota, and decided to eject him from the castle, or rather, to have him arrested by his warriors. Pae went at once to warn Masu. They were still talking, when someone knocked on the door of Masu's room. The young man put on the Taota regalia, then motioned for Toma to open the door.
The Wisa stood in the doorway. Ruefully he said: "Taota... I believe you are our Lord of Lords. My Shiti ordered me to come here to arrest you. If I arrest you I go against my conscience and act against you. If I do not arrest you I go against my loyalty, I rebel against my Shiti..."
"So what are you going to do?" Masu asked.
"I can only give up being the Wisa of this territory, maybe even to be a warrior... Whatever I do, I'll go against my beliefs and my values," the man said. He knelt down, took the sword from his shoulders and placed it at Masu's feet.
Masu took his sword, then handed it back to the Wisa: "Well, since by this act you ceased to be a warrior of this territory, I, the Taota, appoint you as the Wisa of all my warriors. Do you swear fidelity to me? "
The Wisa looked at him, then said: "Yes, I swear fidelity, my Taota, I am ready to die for you!"
"Take your sword, my Wisa. I do not ask you to die for me, but to live. Stay here with me, then."
"The Shiti will send others to execute his orders," Ja said.
"He will not send anyone. Let us go to him. Pae, lead me to your father."
They all went together. The To and So that they met in the corridors and porticos, seeing Masu in his regalia, flanked by Pae and the Wisa, gave way bowing deeply. Then, intrigued, they followed them.
Pae opened the door to the Shiti's quarters and led Masu to his father's room. The Taota opened the door and said cold and tough to the Shiti, who stood up, shocked by this intrusion: "So you ordered the arrest of the Taota, little man?"
"How dare you enter like that..." the Shiti started indignantly.
"On your knees, man!" Masu ordered.
"But who are you? Who do you think you are?"
"Father, he is the Taota, the only true Taota. Kneel down please," Pae said.
The Shiti saw his Wisa behind Masu: "I have ordered you to arrest him, why did you not obey my orders?"
"I broke my oath of loyalty to you, Shiti. I swore allegiance to the Taota," the Wisa replied.
"So then this is a conspiracy!" the Shiti cried, and tried to grab his dagger from the table.
Masu stretched out the scepter before him. A flash of violet light sprang from it, and the knife started to smolder. It burned the wood of the table and dripped onto the marble floor in a shapeless mass.
The Shiti paled: "How... how did you do that? Who are you?"
"I'm your Taota, man!" Masu said.
The Shiti knelt down: "My Lord..." he moaned.
"Your conversion comes too late. Too late... Your son believed me, without seeing any prodigy. So now you should give him your crown. He will be the new Shiti of this territory. You will withdraw to a castle on the borders of Yoonisu', where your son will decide that you can live in exile. You will be a simple Teha until the end of your days. And thank the Kaoka that I do not claim your life!"
The new Shiti, accompanied with all his court, saw Masu to the port and stood there to greet the departing ship. Now Masu was approaching the territory where he grew up. He was on deck and watched his land of origin approach, feeling a strong emotion growing inside.
Kuda went beside him and took his hand. Masu turned to look at him, and smiled: "I never thought I could one day return to my land... I'm glad to be able to make you visit it..."
The coast of Sanisu' approached. The ship circumnavigated the island on which stood Sanisu'-Wachi and finally docked. Masu descended from the bridge of the ship, wearing the regalia, followed by his little court. The people on the pier looked at them curiously and someone who recognized the regalia began to kneel at his passing.
One of the warriors came forward, looked at Masu, then in an unsteady voice said: "Are you not our friend Su Masu-Yari?"
Toma spoke for him: "He is our Taota, warrior. Kneel down!"
The warrior knelt slowly.
Masu said to him: "Arise, my good Take-Ruu. Yes, I am Masu, but as you see, I am no longer a warrior..."
The warrior stood up looking at him: "Forgive me, Masu... but how is possible that my old comrade in arms is now the Taota?"
"You put it in doubt?" Masu asked with a smile.
"No, no... I just don't understand..."
"I can understand you. I myself am still deeply amazed, and am slowly getting used to my new role. It seems that the gods and the Kaoka wanted it like this. Who are we to oppose to their will? But how are you, my faithful companion?"
"Very well, Taota, thank you. Although I'm still amazed to see you... knowing that you are the Lord of Lords... The last time I had news of you I learned, with sorrow, that you were exiled... All of us were expecting you to be a Shisi soon, and the news troubled us very much."
"All of you have been my worthy fellows, you have done everything in your power to protect and help me, and I am grateful."
"You were one of the best among us. We acted according to fairness and justice, as we had to do."
"Do you want to accompany me to the capital, Take?"
"With pleasure. And with me, all my friends and also our Shisi will be honored to be your escort."
"No, let everyone stay here. Warn your Shisi, then come with me."
They walked for almost the entire day. At night, just before sunset, they entered the capital. Along the road Masu explained to Kuda, with plenty of detail, what they saw along their way.
When they reached the gate of the castle Zachi-Saya in the capital Sanisu'-Wachi, seat of the Shiti Reko-Senoo, Take went at once to warn the Wisa, who immediately came to the door to welcome Masu. He knelt before him.
Masu removed from his neck the ruby, the tear of Kaoka, and handed it to his former Wisa.
"Stand up. Behold, I give you back your talisman that twice saved my life, for which I am indebted to you. Now I do not need it any more, but it has been invaluable."
"Masu, Taota..." the Wisa almost stammered.
"You can continue to call me Masu, you who were like a father to me. Now, go and announce me to the Shiti. Tell him that the Taota came to collect his revenge. Actually, no, tell him that Su Masu-Yari came to redeem his wages. And do not let out who I really am."
The Wisa ran inside the castle, while also Masu entered it. All of the warriors, recognizing him, knelt at his passing, with delighted faces. Most of the To instead slipped away, not knowing what to do, how to behave, although some knelt.
When Masu entered the throne room, he found Shiti Reko-Senoo sitting on the throne, his face clouded. The Lady Shiti Woke-Yaine was sitting by his side, with an angry expression. Behind them were their sons and daughters.
"How dare you present yourself to me, Su Masu-Yari!" the Shiti asked with an irate voice.
"How dare you sit on the throne in my presence!" Masu snapped.
"Do you know that now I will condemn you to be beheaded, warrior?" the Shiti answered unperturbed.
"You do not see who is in front of you, Shiti?" Toma asked him.
"Aha! And you believe that this masquerade will save your head?" the Lady Shiti asked in a voice full of scorn.
"It is not a masquerade, Great Lady. He is indeed our Taota," the Wisa warned her.
"You're so silly, warrior! You've shown to be a fool since the day you dared to challenge the authority of your Shiti, as well as incite my anger. Don't you believe that, by calling a few skilled craftsmen, I also could have prepared a robe, a scepter and a false crown?" the Lady Shiti asked scornfully.
"Madam, if you are so certain that this man is an imposter, and that the regalia are a fake, come on, take the crown from his head, and we will be all at your mercy. But I warn you, if he is the true Kaoka, as soon as you touch the crown you will die. Make your choice!" Kuda told her.
"Do you think you scare me, you fool? You think I'm that naive? Look!" she said furiously, and coming down from her seat, approached Masu.
"Woke, don't do that, wait..." the Shiti groaned uncertain.
"Shut up, you are even more foolish than them; you're just a weak and gullible man. But now I will take away this false crown, and then claim his head. I demand it, is it clear?" the woman shouted.
Arrived in front of Masu she had a hysterical laugh, raised her hands and took away the crown from his head.
"You see..." she began to say, but immediately she fell to the ground, struck dead.
Masu bent down, removed the crown from her hands and put it back on his head. The Shiti and his children were pale. Then the Shiti rushed down from his throne, laid his crown in front of him on the floor, and whined.
"Mercy, Taota, mercy..."
"Yes, I will have the same mercy for you as you had for me - I decree for you to go into exile and never to set foot neither in Sanisu' nor in Chuma. If someone will accept you as a To, good for you. Otherwise... you will wander as you have sentenced me to wander. As for you, children of this man, you're free to go wherever you want, as long as it is outside of this territory and of Chuma. Moreover, I order that the new Shiti of Sanisu' is you, Wisa. Choose your successor as the new Wisa, then you will be sworn in."
Masu then gave the other orders, freeing the slaves and ending the rigid separation between the classes. He rededicated the altar and celebrated some unions and fusions.
He then asked to see his former lover, Jule-Dee, who showed up with a youth at his side. Masu recognized him immediately.
"Are not you the little Di Sho?"
"Yes, I am, Taota. I prayed for you every day, as I promised. The Kaoka and the gods have answered my prayers..." said the youth with a radiant face.
"How are you, Di Sho? Are your wounds well healed?"
"Yes Taota, I'm fine. Su Jule-Dee has always treated me very well..."
"I welcome that. And you, Jule-Dee? Have you found a new lover after I had to go away?"
"No, not yet Masu. You see..." he said, blushing slightly, "I promised the little Di Sho to wait until he is older..."
"You love him, then?"
"How could I not love him? This boy is the sweetest, the most tender, the best that I had ever known. If it were not impossible, I would have adopted him. But now that you have freed the slaves..."
"Sure, now it's possible, you can adopt him. Or if you prefer, you can wait for him to grow up, and then unite with him."
"Yes, I will adopt him. I will train him to become a good warrior, and when he will be sixteen, if he still wants me, I will ask to be united with him," Jule said, beaming.