"Welcome Mei Visitors, is it your first time in Megamisama?" "Ai! It our first time, very fine place, but old, no ancient, it looks..." "Mei Visitors, this is the oldest standing structure in Megamisama, and predates the city by at least a hundred years. Please join with your tour group so that we may get started." "What's with this Mei-this, Mei-that husband?" "You haven't been paying attention, to the briefing in Tsou, dear wife, Mei, or high, is the catch-all complimentary category in Kagomei, if in doubt, a drunk Kagomine will salute a lamppost and call it Mei." "Oh, so they were trying to be nice?" "They were trying to be nice, wife, please, let us join our neighbours..." "Group sixteen, from New Tsou City?" "Ai!" They bowed. "Mei visitors, please follow me, we are going up the stairs, to the sixteenth floor, where we will see the cold lamps, they are much too bright for us to look at during the night, but in daytime, it is perfectly safe. We will also see the boats in the harbour and in the nearby bay, some are very pretty." "Oh, my, Mei Visitors, you are in luck, look to starboard, the only thing in Megamisama older than this tower is sailing through the bay, look at that black timber ship! That is Ambulon, the venerable lady of the Navy, she was captained by Kagome, that is the original Great Kagome, herself, shortly after she was commissioned, and hundreds of years later, is still afloat. She does not sail as often anymore, but today she sails proudly, indeed, I've seldom seen her put up such speed!" "Ohhhhh" Gasps, and some pictures, including portable jade banks, but also dedicated cameras. "Mei Visitors, look on her mast... What, wait, there must be some mistake, none of her three masts fly the platinum diamond!" "What does that mean?" "Oh, if she was flying the diamond, she'd be under the keen eye of , the finest sailor in all the fleet! But... I don't know, those are three cadet flags, perhaps there's been an accident. Wait, no, if there had been, the flags would have been at half mast. Perhaps he just wants to celebrate those youths whose flags are flying." "Youths?" "Yes, Mei Visitor, those are Academy Flags, they crew this ship, whose basically a Naval Academy Elite program by herself, only the very best get called to Ambulon! Those of you with binoculars can perhaps try to see closer!" "Ai, what, what are we looking for?" "Mei Visitor, can you describe the flags? I can't see them well at this distance." "Ah, this has a black bird, perhaps a raven, on a field of red, with dark blue to the sides, and a smaller flag in the corner of the flag." "Mei Visitor, that is an Adjen's Flag, that would be the Naval Academy's Valedictorian, promoted to command of Ambulon, and expected to teach their fellows as well as finish whatever they haven't learned yet, before they graduate. I hear this year's valedictorian is especially impressive." "What is so special about that one?" "Mei Visitor, the higher in rank one has on Ambulon, the more renowned they are. Anyone coming to Ambulon even as a rude haft would get respect and a salute from a Life Guard. An Adjen? that's at least eight ranks above that, perhaps more..." "Eight?" "Mei Visitor, It's technically 13, but I know for a fact they do not assign many of those higher ranks ever, not to someone without actual command experience. If anything, Adjen is the highest anyone has ever had as a cadet, and they need special dispensation, as they actually get to keep parts of that flag design forever now. As it's their first official command." "So, honoured tour guide, this child is now an official flag officer, despite not having graduated YET?" "Aye, you can imagine what they needed to do in the academy, just to get permission." "And these other flags? I see a Bullpup, and a Coiled Cobra..." "Those are three of the main study groups at the Academy, the Neverraven attracts students the interplay of magic and military history, the angry Bullpup stands for Gryffindour, whose athletics help much aboard ship, and the Coiled Cobra of the Snuffering stands above those whose magical skills are least, but who study tactics and strategy to tip the balance." "And this Platinum Diamond, he sounded interesting..." "Telbun Tadros Dandelion, a distant relative of Meihomei herself, has held the position of Telbun for sixteen years, serving on Ambulon or at Nessun-Honour Valias Herringbone's personal behest for all that time. It is said that when he shows up the Sailors grow silent, the Foot Soldiers find a Gym, and the pilots of Flyforce start fanboying." "Find a gym?" "Telbun Tadros Dandelion is an olympic-class wrestler and weight lifter, he's won quite a few medals." "I'm told he's not the most famous Telbun alive though, is that true?" "Mei Visitors, you are so well informed! His Predecessor in the post, Marhamat Dandelion, now the Valour-Keeper and Fount of Honour, Knight of Kagomei, sigh, such impressive specimens." "Hut! Hut! Hut! Hut, company, about-face! Salute Distiguished visitors!" "Oh, my, Mei Visitors, you are in for a treat. The Palace Life Guards are here to monitor the changing of the guard, as they do at least once a month." The pipes' skirl went up a notch. Then two. Then three. The tour guide started fanning herself. The pipes' skirl went up a notch again, both in intensity and pitch. The tour guide lay her back against the wall, she was sure if she hadn't, she'd have fainted, as she heard the pipes and their shriek, only reserved for the most honoured of commanders. "Megamisama First Tower Life Guards, Sword Bundle Tekakwitha here, I want you at attention to orders you lily-livered, pampered, fat cat excuses for medics! You shame me in front of this guest, you'll be cleaning out the palace bathchambers for months and be thankful I didn't think of anything worse for you to do, you hear me? Right behind this door, recovering from what must be quite a climb, at 80 years and counting, is Electrum-for-life , legend of the Life Guards. I repeat, do NOT disappoint me, I will not be merciful." Stepping through the door, spryly, really, for someone who'd seen three Meihomeis and change, and who had retired, and truth be told, wanted his daughter to get serious with some guy, really, I mean, 80 was old enough to get his first grand kid, thank you very much. Wait... no let me rewind a bit... "At ease, guards. I'm not here to review any of you, just want to salute the flag, it's been here for a lot longer than I have, and has probably, better stories, but I haven't gotten enough drinks to get the mast to start telling..." Embarassed chuckling. "Look! I know I got this fancy medal that says Meihomei salutes me first... And it's nice, well considering... I mean, I saved both her grandparents, if I didn't do that, she'd not be here to complain. Like really, if your grandparents don't live old enough to be parents, that shortens your life expectation a mite now don't it?" Embarassed guffaws. "But this here, this flag, this flag got transported here, to this spot, by the life guards, the very life guards you are all a part of, in a very desperate action, against some enemies, just so Yesugai, that utter stud of a man, I mean, how ELSE do you get women to swear they'd rather have a threesome with another woman than not have you?" Embassed, but muted laughter. "Any ways, that Yesugai, on the roll of honor of the Navy, for being so important that his DEATH didn't stop his influence on the Nation we're all a part of. His legacy partly being his two kids, with those two women who couldn't be parted with him, but also just his bravery, his courage, his compassion, he would just not let go, would not give up." "He never surrendered, not once. They buried him with his weapons, they say his blood had stained one of his wives ceremonial swords, and either she couldn't, or wouldn't, wash the blood off, or it just would not wash off, we'll never know. But she was buried with her sword, with his blood on it, remembering her just how bad ass he was." "Now, I hear you thinking... But you..." "Yeah, I'm a Dandelion, I'm famously related to this stud, I'm descended from the wife who became a priestess, not the one who became Meihomei. It doesn't matter." "It doesn't matter... Because... he married them both. He had children with both, and they had grand children with the best friends, and no one knows for sure who's descended from who. But it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter because the Dandelions now don't inherit genes or greatness. No, a Dandelion now inherits the requirement to do something worthy of them. And almost 850 years ago, the lifeguards changed the equation. They left you the requirement to be worthy of them, to be worth dying for... I'm not worth dying for, but join me in prayer, perhaps, in 10 or 20 years, I'll be closer to it." The tourists in the audience had never seen so many grown soldiers cry at one time. They... had a few tears themselves. The tour guide... well, it felt like a fevered dream, but.. she had flirted... with a grandfather, and he... had winked back? Maybe she better give up drinking, she told to herself... Only, there was a new number on her jade bank, one she couldn't really explain getting there... "Valkyrie Tower First Life-Guards..." The battle-skirl of the pipes was so intense, some of the guards checked if the Empress herself wasn't watching... "Present arms!" The skirl faded off abruptly, cut-off, as the pipers hung their instruments and presented arms in turn. "Salute Visitors!" The salute was repeated for each group of Tourists, and then, when they had all been saluted, all of the guards turned towards the monument in the back of the cavernous room, next to the main door and overshadowed by the flag and mast, the visitors hadn't noticed, but Marhamat was there, he had gone directly next to the memorial, from outside, it was off to the side, to allow personal ceremonies even as tourists snapped pictures. The guards all took a knee, facing Marhamat. "For Honour and Valour, for Rememberance, from Kagomine everywhere always, we salute you and yours." Marhamat allowed it, thinking they meant the memorial. He was wrong, they meant him, and his responsability as the keeper of honour and lineage, in Kagomei, a Valour-Keeper had all the duties of the head of the heraldic college in our world, except the judges were not Knights, nor the policemen, and no politician could climb above a certain level unless he vetted them. He held a veto over the major executive assignments, and all flag officers were under some form of scrutiny. They admired him greatly, not least for his ability to find people to delegate to, and to actually delegate to them that hardest of emotions: ascertaining trust.