Who is Ishna-nan Jarohiri-ya, Jarohiri son of Ishna?
Jarohiri, called Jaro, was born in Karatus-jia. This makes him one of the mazushiri, the lowest class in Karatus (excluding the Viðkan, who are rarely included in the class hierarchy since many believe them to be sub-human).
When Jaro was eleven, his parents sold him to the kan family for reasons unknown in the first book.
Jaro hated the kan before he arrived, and he also began to hate the gods at this time. It was their will, his father Ishna believed, that Jaro go to Karatus-kan. Jaro interpreted this as not a reason but an excuse.
He discovered that he was not merely to serve the kan family, but Saku-kan, the eminent heir to the rule of Karatus.
Saku was not who Jaro expected. Although Jaro resisted him, Saku has always had a way of getting what he wants. And Saku, a twelve-year-old lonely eccentric, just wanted a friend.
This series occurs nineteen years later, when Jaro and Saku bring Pedra to Karatus.
Some important traits about Jaro:
- His ability as a Controller surpasses the majority of the Minzuku. This is surprising, since Jaro is unenhanced (not genetically modified to improve performance before birth) and (assumedly) comes from humble beginnings.
- He cares deeply for Saku. Perhaps it’s more than friends. For Jaro, it is.
- Science is his god. There is no room for faith. Everything can be explained by science—or if it can’t yet, Jaro seeks to find a scientific explanation.
The following is a scene that will possibly not make it into this series. I do plan to write another series that explores Saku and Jaro’s years between Jaro’s move to Karatus-kan and when my current WIP takes place.
Jaro is eleven and Saku is twelve in the following piece.
It felt like an eternity of darkness, but only seconds passed before a single dome light flicked on over their heads and Saku said, “That’s better.”
“You were sitting in the dark before?”
Saku was already leaning over the device again, wholly engaged in something incomprehensible to Jaro. Not sure what he was meant to do, Jaro didn’t venture further into the room, which was still filled with shadows.
“Ah—there!” Saku leaned back in the chair, glancing at Jaro with eyes brightened by excitement. “I found it!” Then he motioned for Jaro to come over.
Underneath the device, a paper-thin piece of glass rested between two clips that secured it to a plate. “What is it?”
“It’s a microscope, of course. I built it myself. But that’s not what’s interesting.” Clearly it was meant to be interesting.
Saku tapped an open book that Jaro hadn’t seen earlier, as it was on the other side of the microscope. “Look, this one. I’ve been searching for him all morning and only just now spotted him. Quick—he’s a fast one.”
Jaro pressed his eye to the top of the tube. He saw now that the light at the end illuminated the slide. On the slide, a whole new world of creatures swam in a droplet, creatures which, if larger, would have been monsters of his nightmares. Jaro jerked back, and Saku said, “Did you see him?”
“Oh.” Saku peered at him. “I thought you’d be interested.”
“I’m not.” Jaro felt his throat tighten. “I’m not interested.” This boy was so strange and Jaro was already tired and he missed his mama and his baba who he would possibly never see again or at the very least not for six years and this boy thought he would be interested? “I’m your slave. That is all.”
A moment before, Saku had been sitting on the edge of his chair to give Jaro room to peer into the microscope, but now he stood. More lights brightened, even though no one else was in the room and Saku hadn’t touched or said anything.
“It’s true.” He crossed the room to a couch like Sahura-kan’s, but brown. He sat. “If you insist, I will give you orders. Approach my throne, Jaro.”
At that moment, Jaro realized he hated this boy. He hated Saku’s clipped accent, so perfect and pristine. He hated Saku’s vocabulary, loftier and more self-aggrandizing than any words he had heard spoken by child or adult in the jia. He hated Saku’s stupid microscope that Saku had built all by himself. Mostly, he hated Saku.
And yet, he had no choice. What would mama and baba say if Jaro was dismissed? He hated the way their faces rose in his mind. Mama had only been angry at him once—when he was throwing dirt bombs at people on the streets below when he was seven and “old enough to know better”, and her wrath had been fast and severe. Now he was even older. Old enough to know better. So, Jaro walked to the couch and to Saku. There he stood and waited for another command, until Saku said, “Sit,” pointing to the spot on the couch facing the one Saku sat on.
It was so natural to this boy, telling others what to do and watching them do it, and this infuriated Jaro even more. But there was mama to consider.
“You have declared war,” Saku said, his voice low and even, folding his hands in his lap, “and I have nothing to offer you to end this wanton bloodshed and cultivate new peace between our two peoples except my friendship. Which you have rejected, I regret to add.”
What was he going on about? Hadn’t Sahura-kan indicated that Saku was half mad? Jaro glanced at the door, which was sealed. Anyway, Jaro had no clue how to open it. These doors seemed to open on their own, and yet none of them had opened for Jaro when he stepped near them.
Was he going to die in here? Would Saku kill him? Jaro called to memory an old man in the jia boiling a raptor alive “to prevent the muscles from stiffening”. Mama had told the man he was raving mad. Jaro shuddered. Was Saku raving mad?
“I am your slave, not your enemy.”
“Aha!” Saku wagged a finger at Jaro. “But, under the right circumstances, these things are one and the same!” Standing, Saku stalked back and forth between the couches, stroking his beardless chin. “Now we must determine what we will do about it. Will we pit our armies against each other, commanding them to bathe in their own blood to fight our battles while we watch, unscathed and anointed in sovereignty, high above? Or shall we duel, you and I, to resolve our differences, spilling our own blood to save the lives of fearless men and women who bear arms for our cause? Hm?”
“No! I tell you—oh. Well, what’s your idea? Go ahead, you must speak freely here.”
“I am not your enemy.”
“So, you’re my friend now, are you? Interesting turn of events.” Saku sat down again, clasping his hands between his knees. “I had a damn good plan, too.”
“I am not your friend.”
“Which one is it, Jaro?”
Jaro had once punched a boy a head taller than him in the jaw so hard the boy had spun like a top and, if not for his friend who had been cheering him on from behind and grabbed him, would have fallen on his face. Would it be wrong to do that now? Mama’s specter, now permanently a fixture in Jaro’s mind, told him yes, that would be very wrong.
Rather than say something that a jia boy should never say to anyone in the kan, and especially not heir to the throne, Jaro pressed his lips together and left the couch. There was nowhere to go, but he wanted to be prepared to dodge an attack, should Saku launch one.
“How about this.” Saku leaned back, and the couch puffed around him. “How about we duel. I’m loath to do it, but you seem the dueling type.”
Startled by Saku’s perspicacity—did he somehow read Jaro’s thoughts? —Jaro shook his head. “You’re enhanced. It wouldn’t be a fair fight!” and then, as an afterthought “—And I can’t fight you. I would be executed.”
“Oh, don’t worry about execution. I won’t tell. Promise.” Saku pushed the piles of papers and books and the microscope to one side of his desk. The papers fell off, along with one book that landed with a thud. “Unless, of course, you kill me. In which case my blood will cry out for revenge, and you will surely die.”
“Well don’t go and look at me like that. I’ve never known someone to die in an arm wrestle. You’d have to have an incredibly weak heart—or something.” He dragged another chair from the edge of the room to beside the desk, then waved at Jaro. “Come on, then. You don’t, right? Have a weak heart?”
Jaro shook his head and sat in the seat. “You’re mad,” he said.
“Ha!” Saku grinned, and that same light Jaro had seen earlier when Saku had spotted the organism under the microscope was back. “A moment of verity. How refreshing! No one is ever honest with me.” He clapped Jaro’s shoulder. “Now, a duel to the death.” He placed his elbow on the desk, his arm bent, his hand open and waiting for Jaro’s. “You are left-handed, right?”
Jaro grasped Saku’s hand. “What are the stakes?”
“I win and we’re friends. You win and, well, you get to choose.”
Despite his frail appearance, Saku was strong, and within thirty seconds, Jaro’s wrist was already twisted backwards, Saku’s hand curled over in imminent victory. “Now,” Saku said through gritted teeth, “it’s just a matter of time. I will wear you down. You will succumb to our friendship.”
Jaro, however, had no intention of losing to Saku. He had no intention of being Saku’s friend. It was merely a label—it meant nothing—but to Jaro it meant everything. He would not be friends with a lunatic. When he could hold Saku back no longer and his wrist was only a few centimeters from the surface of the desk, Jaro kicked Saku’s shin. Hard.
Saku cried out, and in that moment of surprise, Jaro forced Saku’s arm under his, slamming the kan boy’s wrist against the desk.
Jaro stood. “Not friends.”
“You are enhanced. It was unfair to begin with.”
Saku crossed his arms. “I see you are a more cunning opponent than I first believed. For you, the end justifies the means. I’ve underestimated you and lost because of it.” He shook his head. “But tomorrow, we shall duel again.”
“But I’ve beaten you.”
“I’ve been beaten, but I’m not beat. Tomorrow we will duel again.” Saku pulled the microscope back to the center of the desk and peered down the tube. “Damn, he’s gone. I told you he was a fast inugo.” He looked back at Jaro. “Hungry yet? It’s about lunch time, I think.”