Welcome to another Author Highlight, a series where we feature authors like ourselves. You’ll find author interviews, tips, stories, poetry and more. We aim to entertain, promote, and inspire. Other interviews can be found here.

Tyler Edwards

Joining us in our post today is R.D. Pires, author of Design of Darkness releasing June 21st! R.D. is taking over our blog today with an exciting historian’s record of the enigmatic Emperor Kaori.

About the sci-fi/fantasy book, Design of Darkness

The shadow of the great usurper, King Fogosombre, has kept the East in darkness for twelve long years. Made paranoid by a foretelling of his downfall, the king’s indiscriminate violence reaches a new zenith, leaving twins Arsenio and Mariana orphaned and homeless, their village burnt to the ground.

Now, as the dying embers of their rebellion fade into the night, the twins make a promise to find aide for their people in foreign lands. To get out from under the king’s reach, they must venture across the Great Ocean into a world they had only dreamt about through travelers’ stories. From their perilous quest arises a tale of emperors and queens, marauders and mysticism, fortitude and forbidden love.

Meanwhile, King Fogosombre conducts profane rituals driven by his lust for indomitability. Toiling with malign magic that may yield dire consequences for all the known world, he seeks a pact with the shadows, a plan to cement his reign indefinitely: a design of darkness.

Unveiling Emperor Kaori: A Glimpse into the Layers of Nokari History

Most folk have an uncanny habit of envisioning history as an inscription in stone. In reality, it’s more akin to viewing a portrait through a thousand layers of sheer fabric. Each peeled-back layer reveals new details—and the layers never seem to end. 

Despite being a preeminent voice in Nokari history, I too am often guilty of the carved stone mindset. 

My world was rocked in April of 2019, when archeologists uncovered an astounding collection of personal accounts dating back to the 22nd century of the Nokara calendar, which begin with the crowning of the enigmatic Emperor Kaori. Consisting of journal clippings from all manner of personnel at Kingfisher Palace, the documents reignited my interest in Nokari history, and eventually inspired my novelization of one of their most harrowing chapters.

For the uninitiated, Emperor Kaori was the impressionable young successor to the lauded Empress Mai. Kaori was crowned during the first month of the Waning Season in Nokara-year 2195. Due to immense, global conflict, very few personal accounts from his reign have survived beyond monotonous economic records. 

As someone who had recently developed an obsession with Nokara’s most inscrutable figurehead, I traveled immediately to the site of the discovery to pore over the pages. I was not disappointed by the wealth of new discovery on display. Finally, there was concrete evidence to test several long-debated theories. I will share with you a few of the early highlights, which I painstakingly translated from the long-dead Nokari language. 

According a fellow student of Kaori’s at Kingfisher Palace’s famed Academy, one Notae-Yun, the youthful emperor did not possess the typical characteristics of a great leader: 

That puerile waif of a boy was elected emperor when I’m three weeks from Last Vocation? [note: Last Vocation was the age at which a student who is not elected to a leadership role aged out of the Palace Academy and took either a military post or a teaching position] The only part of him I could break faster than his arm would be his spirit. What the council sees in him, I will never understand. Though, of course, should anyone say anything, they would be chastised as an envious fool. It’s not envy that beckons my criticism, but Kaori’s lack of gumption. 

We who have studied the Empire of Nokara agree that jealousy was rife among the student populace at Kingfisher Palace. In that era, the emperor was hand-picked from the student population of roughly two hundred individuals age 5 to 20. Although students were taught to mask their more tumultuous emotions with grace, no doubt Notae-Yun’s sentiments were echoed by many of Kaori’s contemporaries. 

Certainly, the youthful emperor was not without critics, but Kaori was also not without friends. In this reflective account from Kumo Amaya–a professor of ethics at the Palace Academy who would go on to become Kaori’s head advisor–she describes his demeanor fondly in the moments leading up to the crowning ceremony. 

…[Kaori] walked with me when the drums sounded. Most of his peers struggled to contain themselves, eager to get to the Inner Ceremonial Chamber to learn who among them would wear the Crown of Mai. Kuze Kaori was the only student I saw who express apprehension, contemplating not only what it would mean to sit the Golden Throne, but to follow in the footsteps of such a beloved empress. 

The temperament of the realm’s next leader would determine Nokara’s role in the coming era: aggressor or peacemaker. It is my belief the Elliptic Council [the electorate body responsible for choosing students to fulfill leadership roles across the empire] wished to maintain the nature of Empress Mai’s reign. In that regard, they could do no better than Kuze Kaori, and that is precisely why he was chosen. Yes, he is younger than is historically typical, but his emotional intelligence and dedication to learning far outstrip that of his elder peers. And we could all benefit from another leader who is as ready to listen as they are to decree. 

Seldom are historians given such concise summations of a ruler from over a millennia ago, especially from the viewpoint of their contemporaries. 

But the writings did not only provide poignant summaries of the mysterious monarch. Take this amusing clipping from Elliptic Council member Cixi, who describes the lost procedure of the crowning ceremony in illustrious detail. 

Yet, even the crowded assembly could not mask the echoing emptiness when Councilman Hinata announced Kuze Kaori’s name. Timid boy. The congregation stood in silence waiting for him to claim his crown. Given the lack of response, I thought perhaps we had mistakenly elected a student who did not exist. Would that the teacher standing on the end of his row propelled him into action. By the time Kaori tiptoed his way to the dais and Hinata placed the Crown of Mai upon Emperor Kaori’s head, I had nearly forgotten what we were all doing there. If he is to live up to the title of emperor, the transformation is sure to be spectacular.

It seems despite his election, Emperor Kaori did not initially have the support of everyone at the palace. 

Among the clippings, my favorite—and perhaps the one that has been most fiercely discussed since its discovery—spoke to my sentimental nature: a half-written note that Kaori seemingly abandoned before finishing, whether out of hesitation or shame. Certainly, both would have been characteristic of the circumspect sovereign. The note is addressed to a foreign traveler whose name points to Faroni origins from across the Endless Ocean. Emperor Kaori writes with a longing, as if to a lover, though my peers would criticize labeling this as “homosexuality” since such heteronormative deviancy would have been strictly prohibited for the time period.  

He writes: 

It is the nature of all beings to seek out their purpose. The ability to think has its price. Prior to you, I had resigned myself to daunting mediocrity—even the crown upon my head felt more leaden than my resolve. Your tenacity has changed my perspective. Though the loss of you has muted the beats of my heart, though I awake in your absence to haunted chambers, my ability to persist despite the ache leads me to believe I can be more than I thought. After all, the mountain which can hold back the tempest must be very strong indeed. 

Needless to say, I was enraptured by the collection of writings, feeling as though I had been given a gift by the Nokari gods—a glimpse into the great empire that once spanned millions of acres. But how to share this wonder with the world when so many are resistant to historical accounts they view as stale and unmoving? How to make them see this history as living entity with a pulse like the cyclic tides of the Endless Ocean? 

In Kaori’s own words, I found my purpose in rendering his epic story, one that would unfold after his coronation, in a fictionalized retelling. Using a culmination of the found writings and my knowledge of the era, I could fill in the gaps between accounts as honestly and dutifully as possible.  I would call it The Tides That Reign. 

The trouble with any real story is that it has no true beginning. As I furthered my studies, uncovering more and more of the past, I realized my great retelling had to span continents. The saga could not begin in the great empire of the west, but in a little village far away in the eastern Kingdom of Faron. It begins with a family of unassuming origins. It begins with fire…

Connect With R.D.

RD Pires has found there’s always a story to tell, and so he spends his time writing them down. A project is always on his mind, even when there aren’t enough hours in a day to work on them.

His blend of literary writing with genre elements is influenced by his favorite authors, such as David Mitchell, Brandon Sanderson, Madeline Miller, and Stephen King.

His works include the upcoming The Tides That Reign series, A Vast, Untethered Ocean, the novella In Death Do Flowers Grow, and the collection of short fiction A Sky Littered With Stories.

He lives in California with his husband.

Thanks, R.D., for taking over the blog today! Readers: Check out R.D.’s work, and if you love the fusion of science fiction and fantasy elements, of course, we must recommend our own story: Trials of the Innermost! Love finding connections with other books.

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