“Yamato.” Sejanes sighed. “Tremane and I must have visited that land half a dozen times in the service of the Iron Throne. And each time, we were surprised all over again.” He tapped a finger against the table. “Imagine the Pelagirs, with all their wild magic, and multiply that ten times over. Twist and contort the whole of it into four sea-washed islands, so violent and unstable that the earth shakes daily, people build with paper rather than brick because they expect the building to fall down on them, and even the smallest village supports a miko, a shrine maiden, just to warn of the great sea-waves that rise out of the ocean without warning. A land so fierce, so dangerous, that the Eastern Empire has done no more than gain a toehold for trade. That is Yamato.” He laughed at himself. “Back then, we believed the miko and houshi were just charlatans, ‘predicting’ the future and ‘casting out demons’ to make their living from the unwary. Now… now I’m not so certain.
“The local magic is so unstable that sending in an unwary Adept can get him torn apart the first time he tries to tap a ley line. And you can’t allow in any woman who might be bearing a child with Mage-Gift. You’d be signing both of their death warrants. There are no local mages. Not as we know them.” Sejanes paused. “But there are hitokiri.”
Kaoru loosened her fingers, a joint at a time. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to hear this. She steeled herself. But I have to.
“As you say, Kaoru-san, hitokiri means manslayer. They’re warriors, first and foremost. Usually swordsmen. And on the battlefield, they can do things that are literally… magical. Fire from nowhere. Blows that slice through armor and bone in one clean cut. Healing impossible wounds. Information sped from hitokiri to spy and back again, with no trace of magical communication; as if their very thoughts reached out and touched.” Sejanes arched wry brows. “Of course, the Empire thought it was all superstition. They had to be mages, cloaking their power in ways unknown to us. How else could one do such things?”
“Mind-Magic?” Eldan paled. “You’re saying these killers have Mind-Gifts?”