The Short Version
Episodes 1-3: Intan makes friends. Also enemies. Also, the king shows up announcing plans to revive some religious ceremonies that have been otherwise neglected for more than twenty years — and he intends to choose his attendants from the student body, an honor traditionally reserved for nobility.
Episodes 4-6: Intan and two fellow students get caught up in some trouble at a western mining village. Trouble that may or may not be the work of dissidents. Later, at the Moon Festival, the king chooses his attendants via ceremonial lottery, and the results are quite unexpected.
Episodes 7-9: Intan and fellow student Tuyet are sent to counter rebel movement at the capital. Unfortunately, they run into Tuyet’s ex-boyfriend and things go explodey. But hey, there’s a party afterward. Yay party.
Episodes 10-11: Experiments and drugs and carnivorous deer gods, oh my. Wait, what??
The Long Version
Mere weeks into the school year, two rogue Dolls appear on the grounds of the Royal Military Academy of Nahwan. Instead of fleeing for shelter as per protocol, Intan Aghavni, a first year pilot cadet in the Wisteria division, jumps into a retired training Doll in order to counter one of the rogues. Although Intan successfully incapacitates it, the rogue Doll explodes, fatally injuring its pilot — fellow first year Sita Chang from the Bamboo/engineering division. Second year medic Eguzki Kaneshiro (Lotus division) arrives at the scene too late to save her.
Due to this incident — brushed off by most of the faculty and student body as an unfortunate accident — Intan is befriended by eager engineer student Hadil Wong, one of the girls she saved from the rogue Doll, who is quite intrigued by the fact that Intan managed to get one of the retired Doll models working again. Intan’s stunt also draws the attention of Headmistress Beatrix Liow and Assistant Headmistress Tanith Singh, who induct her into a special elite course for the best students of each year, the “Nine Dragons.” The Headmistress suspects that the rogue Dolls may have been the work of dissidents from the western coastline, but reveals little more.
The elite course turns out to be much more boring and tedious than Intan hoped, but she does get to meet a few other interesting figures: third years Jinwei Rusli and Tuyet Dugu (from the Azalea and Hibiscus divisions respectively), who are her seniors in the Nine Dragons… and an angry medic student girl named Kasih Park who seems to hate Intan for her role in Sita Chang’s death. When Rusli attempts to break up an altercation between Intan, Hadil, and Park — only to find Park’s ire redirected toward him — Eguzki ends up jumping in and saving the day.
Despite the lack of antagonism between them, Rusli and Eguzki seem to have some sort of history. The other students hate and fear Eguzki, both for his personal connections with the Headmistress (who was friends with his deceased mother) and because of the rumors that he murdered another student in his first year. It turns out, in fact, that Eguzki was formerly a Dragon as well — until he got in a fight with his senior and transferred out of the piloting program.
In the meantime, the king of Nahwan makes a surprise personal appearance at the Academy with a peculiar announcement: he intends to revive the ceremonies for the gods that have been neglected for more than twenty years — and he intends to select his attendants from the student body, an honor traditionally reserved only for nobility.
Summer break rolls around. During a special training camp to the northwest of the main island, Intan and fellow first year Dragon Kikue Sunagawa of Azalea are inadvertently separated from the rest of their group. When Kikue’s Doll malfunctions, they get caught in a typhoon, reminding Intan briefly of another, earlier storm… Kikue manages to get them both to safety after Intan’s Doll malfunctions as well, but they end up trapped in a mysterious cavern where they stumble across the wreckage of an ancient Doll. They pay their respects before finally finding their way out of the cavern. There, they are found and picked up by a rather grumpy Eguzki.
But the day isn’t over for them just yet. They hear an explosion, followed by smoke rising from the main island. The source: a mining village under attack from a maskless Doll. The village, as it turns out, is Hadil’s hometown. While Eguzki runs off to take care of the injured, Hadil suggests that Kikue and Intan pilot a pair of modded Minis (unpainted miniature Dolls designed for civilian use) to distract the enemy Doll and buy time for the other villagers to escape.
They succeed. A military transport arrives just in time to clean up after them. Meanwhile, the Headmistress herself shows up at the village and summons Intan and Kikue to a meeting with Hadil’s grandfather, the village chief. The Headmistress reveals that the attack was the work of rebels, though she does not explain why the village was targeted in particular. Eguzki also reports, to everyone’s shock, that the maskless Doll had been unpiloted. Hadil, too, confides that Kikue and Intan’s Dolls show evidence of tampering, though the only other people with access to the machines should have been the instructors.
The military dismisses Hadil’s findings. Hadil and Intan discuss the possibilities of remote control, but to their knowledge the technology has not yet developed to such an extent. School life resumes for them soon after, though due to the disturbances, the king reschedules his selection of attendants from the end of summer to the annual midautumn Moon Festival held on campus grounds. The military hopes to take advantage of the event to draw out any troublemakers.
The festival starts out quite well. Rusli plies Intan with food and takes her to see the puppet show, which she is enjoying very much when she spots a tree sprite lurking by the curtains — one of the few she has seen ever since arriving on campus. She takes it as an omen, and sure enough, the performance is interrupted by a scream outside. It turns out to be nothing serious, just someone playing a little prank with fireworks in the middle of the street… though Intan spots a familiar face lurking in the crowd afterward: the medic girl Park. Fortunately for Park, Intan is far more concerned with the appearance of the tree sprite than the girl’s clear resentment — and Eguzki arrives just in time to stave off any potential conflict.
Park runs off after a bitter comment about “the old bitch,” leaving Eguzki alone with Intan. They proceed to have a very strange conversation that doesn’t quite go anywhere and is interrupted anyway by the start of the king’s attendant selection, a ceremonial lottery via divination.
The four chosen students are most unexpected: Gisela Liem, a second year from the Bamboo division, is the only candidate Intan does not recognize. Yusaku Wystan is Rusli’s tall, quiet friend, also of the Azalea division. Tuyet, as a Dragon, should not have been chosen at all. And the last candidate is Eguzki.
Eguzki is not very happy about this, and the selection seems to strain his already rocky relationship with the Headmistress. Intan doesn’t have much time to wonder about it, however, for the Headmistress soon assigns her a special mission with Tuyet to the capital. While there, Tuyet remarks that Intan is nothing like what she expected from a student who was admitted into the Academy on the strength of patronage from one of the Great Clans. Intan, however, seems to have applied to the Academy for reasons of her own: she is searching for someone she describes only as “the goddess of the hot springs.”
Before they can proceed with the mission, they run into a white-haired man named Zeke, who turns out to be Tuyet’s ex-boyfriend. And he’s working for the rebels, led by a man named Captain Mok — a former comrade of the Headmistress herself. The rebels seem to be involved in some sort of plot involving the king and one of the heads of the Great Clans, Gushiken, who is rumored to be after the throne himself.
Zeke and Tuyet were once the leaders of a gang of street kids who made a living through thieving. The last job they took on — to steal the heirloom of Clan Rusli, a priceless jade pendant — went horribly wrong. To this day, Zeke is convinced Tuyet betrayed them all in order to gain admission into the Academy and thus climb the social ladder.
Tuyet and Intan manage to escape from the rebels, though not before Intan catches sight of a peculiar photograph of Captain Mok, the Headmistress, and a few other soldiers, including a familiar-seeming woman whose face has been blurred out. The girls learn that the rebels have set up a bomb in the plaza as a distraction. Their true target is the Gushiken head. This odd tangle of loyalties confuses Intan, but she sets aside her concerns and rushes to the plaza, where she manages to enlist the tree sprites’ help in removing the bomb — or bombs — before she is taken hostage by Zeke.
In the meantime, Tuyet tries to bargain with Captain Mok. She is, as it turns out, the current owner of Clan Rusli’s pendant, which the rebels want for some reason. However, they don’t get very far before they are joined by Zeke and Intan. And a trio of rogue Dolls.
Mok escapes on one of the rogues. In the ensuing mess, Zeke is killed without ever learning the truth behind Tuyet’s abandonment of him and their friends.
The remaining rebels are rounded up and executed, though a certain Council is agitated about the implications of Mok’s actions, and worries about the incident’s potential effect on a certain project recently approved by the king. Intan, meanwhile, is still more concerned over the strange behavior of the sprites than the uneasy political situation… when she receives an invitation to Miss Singh’s annual year-end party. Despite feeling out of place, Intan goes and ends up running into a few familiar faces: medic student Park is serving as a greeter, and both Kikue and Eguzki seem to have received invitations too. Intan is trying to coax Eguzki out of his shell when Rusli and Yusaku show up. Rusli makes an attempt to reach out to Eguzki, but Eguzki is as surly as usual. Intan is finally unable to resist her curiosity and asks him about his previous history at the school. Eguzki admits to killing an older student, Vasco Morikawa, who had been in the Nine Dragons with him.
The next day, Intan chats with Hadil, who has formed some theories of her own about the Dolls and their history of bizarre malfunctions. Intan, on a sudden whim, decides to go exploring through the mountains surrounding the campus, and drags Hadil into the forest. Where they run into Eguzki again. He’s looking for Park, who has suddenly gone missing. Intan offers to help.
They don’t find her. Instead, they stumble across two more abandoned Dolls, half-buried in the earth — and two rebel men who have come looking for said Dolls. The men are about to leave when Eguzki suddenly stands, giving their location away. But Eguzki has good reason: he’s spotted two tree sprites dancing on top of the buried Dolls, and goes chasing after one of them. Hadil runs off in order to distract the men; Intan follows after the second sprite.
The sprites lead Intan and Eguzki straight to a sickened deer-like beast — one of the mountain Guardians, who shows Intan a vision of Eguzki’s past. Then eats one of the pursuing rebel men for them.
This upsets Intan considerably, for she recognizes what it must mean: the gods of the island are dying.
Then they find Park collapsed on the slope. Eguzki realizes the girl has been taking experimental drugs, and knows then that she must have taken an offer from someone in exchange for vengeance. He refuses to take the Park back to the academy for medical assistance, insisting that the Headmistress must not find out about what she’s done. Fortunately for him, Rusli and Yusaku show up just in time; Rusli enlists the help of his family and promises to keep the incident secret.
Despite not understanding anything about the spirits at all, Eguzki agrees to help Intan search for a cure for the Guardian. But all too soon, he must leave with the other three selected attendants in order to prepare for the new year’s rites.
Leaving Intan behind with Rusli and the remaining Dragons to plot their next move…
ON TO EPISODE 12
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