This story takes place around the same time that Pantheras Mission takes place, but with a rogue group within the Glass Eyes. This story introduces one of my all time favorite characters - Tree Trehausen who is Japanese by birth, but with a Dutch heritage. Her family leads Rajin, another group of people like Pantheras.
The old woman stood head and shoulders below the lanky not quite blonde of mixed Japanese and Dutch heritage. The woman wore the traditional hanbok, kept her gray hair twisted up in an intricate knot and gazed at Tree with contemplative peace.
"You're not what you seem to be," the woman finally spoke.
"Neither are you," Tree answered. "I expected someone bigger."
The old woman laughed. "I am a meek old woman with history in her limbs. Why should I be bigger?"
"You lived many years, all that information should have some place to be stored."
The woman leaned forward. "Come now, young woman. You should know that we can store vast amounts of information in very small spaces now."
Tree laughed. The old woman, simply known to her as Fifteen, was a national treasure, though none in Korea knew the woman as such. She was the unknown number of national treasures, intangible history. Fifteen had lived through a hundred years of history. Her mother had brought her into the world a scant few years after the Wright Brothers had flown, and her grandchildren’s grandchildren thought space exploration mundane.
"What brings you to Korea, then? What shall I call you? Your English name?"
"Tree?" Fifteen cocked her head. "A pine or a maple?"
"I've always preferred the willow, myself. I need lots of water, cool breezes and room to spread."
Fifteen laughed again. "You must be related to the Trehausens of Japan, then. You have that odd look in that eye of yours."
"You know Trehausens."
"My dear, everyone knows about the Trehausens. Their family graces the front of tabloids, fashion and business news. Their fingerprints are everywhere in the fairly recent history of Asia, some say other fingerprints can be found on the oldest artifacts, but I'm not certain what fingerprints they refer too."
Pouring more tea into their glasses, Fifteen paused a moment before setting the teapot back on the warmer. "Now, what are you?"
Fifteen swallowed, her first emotion of surprise. "Oni?" She looked at Tree's head. "Do you get horns?"
"Pretty azurite ones, and fangs too, if you must know."
The Eyes, those who held galaxies in their heads, had the abilities connected to their glass eyes. Myths, legends, gods, goddesses, hero and villain were not just made up, but real. The stories of the exploits of Eyes had been handed down through human history until the various stories had intertwined, knotted and become one story, one race.
"And ... What exactly brings you to Korea?"
"Eyes ... The glass ones, not the breathing ones." Tree leaned forward. "You're a national treasure, Number Fifteen. No one tells me what you're national treasure is, though. What is it that you know that I need to know?"
"Why do you believe I have anything?"
"Aren't the old ones supposed to know more than we young ones do?"
Fifteen laughed again. "I thought young ones thought they knew everything we old ones know?"
"We do, but sometimes we like confirmation that we were right."
"And what sort of confirmation do you seek?" Fifteen reached for her tea, but lifted a finger to Tree. "Surely, you must have something in mind."
"We seek glass eyes hidden around the world."
Fifteen sipped her tea.
She was old, probably even older than her birthdate. She had said she was born before the Wrights flew, but official records said she had been discovered as a child by a Protestant missionary who only guessed at her age. Fifteen had seen mainly war in her lifetime. Some said it was the curse of the Eyes to see war, but not all had. Fifteen had two dark, nearly black eyes which watched. Given her age, it was no surprise anyone had difficulty distinguishing the glass eye from her natural eye.
The more important question was whether she was a born Eye, one born with only one natural eye; an accidental Eye - those who lost an eye; or a made Eye, like Tree - those who had an eye surgically removed for the purpose of becoming an Eye.
"There are stories in the past of the dragon, fox and ogre who came to Korea," Fifteen spoke.
"I have heard of some of those stories," Tree admitted. "The three were siblings or friends."
"Sisters. The Oni is rarely a woman."
"Are you saying I'm somehow the omen of misfortune, because if you are, it doesn't come as a surprise to me."
Fifteen blinked. "You know?"
Tree shrugged. "I'm the second youngest of my mother's children; my father made me an Eye when I was five. I've seen death, live three lives at once, and still keep standing. I've been knocked down, raked across the coals and thrown to the dragons, but I get back up."
"You are very young."
"You don't know the Trehausens then."
Fifteen sipped her tea. "Only by rumor. I met one, once, when I was a child, but I don't remember her being especially dangerous. Not like you are."
Tree smirked and leaned back. "Only my brother, my lover and you have ever said I was dangerous."
Fifteen leaned forward a bit to peer into Tree's eyes. "Then either you are very good at hiding it, or no one has stared into your eyes long enough to see anything."
Tree moved forward. "I am very good at hiding." She reached for her tea again. "This isn't the reason I came."
"No," Fifteen agreed, also reaching for her tea. "It isn't. You wish to know the locations of the glass eyes most dangerous to humanity. What will you do with them? I must question the intentions of all Eyes."
"Especially the oni?"
"Especially any connected to Trehausens. Just because I only met one, your family has rumors gathered around like an ever shifting cloak."
Tree shrugged. "I have broken ranks with Rajin and the Blacks are on my tail. I have maybe three more months before they can track me down well enough to find me. We need to gather the eyes before my father does."
"Are they using them for something?"
"Would like to see a large amount of dangerous eyes in the hands of my father?"
"The fact you haven't even mentioned his name makes me wonder who your father is, but I suspect it would be the scientist of Rajin, considering he made you an Eye."
Tree lifted her eyebrows in agreement.
Fifteen settled back into her chair, considering the younger woman. "I don't know where any are. The most dangerous ones are hidden for eternity, I think. Lost to time."
"What about those which might be dangerous and known?"
"Scattered across the Earth. You might find them on display, or in various places. Families inherit baubles, of course."