The Twelve Kingdoms Fan Fiction ❯ Threads to the Future, Sea of Night ❯ The False Dawn ( Chapter 1 )

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Threads to the Future, A Sea of Night
Disclaimer:12 Kingdoms is not owned by me. Don't sue me for my socks.
Chapter One: The Wanderer
A lone figure sat on a hilltop shadowed by a single gargantuan tree over looking a brightly lit city-port in the gathering twilight. At first glance it was difficult to tell whether it was a girl or a boy. The clothes were plain, with no embellishment at all, and a mottled assortment of blues, the darkest being the wide sash at the waist and the lightest, the undershirt, that showed underneath the light vest the figure wore.. The hair, though long, was a startling stark white, which in the last rays of the setting sun seemed to have a palest blue undertone to it. Upon taking a closer look, one would see that not only was the figure female, it was also quite young, not even out of her teens.
Wrapping her arms about her up-drawn knees, she released a sigh as she nestled her chin in the valley between her knees. "Kyuuei ... I love this land, this world. So why ... why am I so lonely? I have you guys, and I adore you all, but ... " her soft voice trailed off.
"You are human. We are not. Humans need human contact." the low growl behind her sent soothing vibrations through her lean frame. Often she wondered how she was able to understand the beasts called youma, since it seemed that no one else save the kirin and emperors could do so. That she was a mere kaikyaku made it even more confusing. Even back in Horai, she'd been able to understand the animals to a degree. Somehow, the youma were even easier to understand. She had long since dismissed the subject as unimportant, but every now and then someone in town would give her a strange look for talking to the air, never realizing what it was she spoke with.
The furry beast behind her gave an even bigger twist to things. A Toutetsu. One of the few types of youma never, to her knowledge, tamed by a kirin. For whatever reason, after she had taken the orphaned creature in, he had never left her side. That had been six years ago.
"I suppose I'll have to go into town tomorrow to get my supplies," she said, changing the topic. "You coming with me, Tsuki?" she looked down to address the small red and gold snake coiled around her wrist.
"Someoneneeds to keep you out of trouble," she returned with a laughing hiss, the frill running the length of her head and neck rising to show off the black spines. "And I can't trust the other two lugs to do that. It's too hard for them two to hide in a town."
"Hey! It's not like I go looking for trouble!"
"Trouble usually finds you."
Turning away with a snort, the girl leaned back into her furry companion and put her hands behind her head. "So where do you guys wanna go next? I hear Kei is finally getting back on it feet now that the Empress has been on the throne for a few years. Maybe Ryuu? Where next?"
"Let's worry about that when the time comes," responded the third of her friends from above. "Tomorrow will come in its own time."
Sighing, she pulled her blanket up about her shoulders and nuzzled into the Totetsu's shoulder. She supposed that Kenichi had a point. The damn bird always had a point. Yawning she snuggled deeper into her furry friend and was soon fast asleep.
With a grumpy sigh and a groan, a young boy with long spiky blonde hair observed himself in a mirror. He really needed to do something about his hair. It was a dead give-away to his identity, and even though he kept it covered when he was incognito, there had been a few close calls when the damned turban he usually wore had nearly fallen off. Here, it wasn't possible for him to revert to his formerly human body, he could only do that in Hourai. Sighing, he began wrapping the cursed thing around his head and attempted to tuck the stray strands of brightly golden hair up into the cloth.
Glancing about, he strode off toward the balcony and considered the time. By his reckoning, morning assembly should already be over and if there were anything major they'd have already come and gotten him. So he saw no reason why he couldn't take the lunch hours off and roam about a city for a while. He was bored, and wanted to get out of the palace for a while.
Giving himself a last brush down, he launched himself out into the air, heading for his normal hiding spot. The ministers always hated it when he took off for the city, so he had learned long ago to hide his coming and going. Otherwise they'd be waiting for him every time he tried to leave without a warning.
After landing he looked around for a moment before deciding to head for the docks. He wanted to see what imports had come in on the morning tide. Maybe he could grab lunch there. Striding off in the direction of the docks, the Taiho of En, Rokuto, slid unobtrusively and unnoticed into the crowd.
Pushing through the crowd surrounding the store she wished to enter Kirei glanced only briefly at the fist fight going on before slipping silently into the building. If the two dock workers wanted to duke it out who was she to interfere? Adjusting the black kerchief wrapped around her head she slipped inside the store.
"Moronic humans," hissed Tsuki from where she was wrapped around Kirei's neck.
She could only chuckle in agreement.
Looking around, she made a note of a few extra things she might like before heading directly to the counter to hand in her usual order, one week's worth of travel rations. While the man at the counter sorted out the goods she stepped closer to a small shelf that held many different kinds of gloves. Picking through them she brightened when she found a pair of fingerless leather gloves that had a bit of padding about the knuckles; fist-fighters gloves. Smiling she looked up at the elderly man behind the counter. "Excuse me, sir, but how much are these?" she asked holding the black gloves up. Her funds, while not very limited, were still low enough that she had to be careful for the next few weeks.
"Ah, like those, do you? They don't really sell all that well here. Seamen want something a little warmer for their hands. And most of the mercenaries use gauntlets. Ah well. For you, 20."
"Ahh! Good. Then add these to my tab," she said, pulling them on. Flexing her fingers, she smiled at the flexibility. these would be perfect for her sparring sessions with her friends. Well, sparring would not be the most appropriate term for it. Roughhousing would be better. Still, she treated them like sparring sessions. Learning to defend herself from the likes of her friends had gotten her out of a few very tight spots.
Moving on, she passed by a few shelves lined with farming equipment and looked through the fabric on the next set. She needed to get some new clothes. The ones she had were a little on the worn and ragged side. Granted the fabric was still in good condition, but while she was a wanderer, she wasn't anywhere near a beggar and there was no need for her to look like one. Besides, she prided herself on her clothes, and kept them in as good a condition as she could. She repaired all the small tears herself. Fingering a bolt of deep scarlet she glanced around, idly noting the young man who'd entered the shop. Apparently he knew the proprietor very well, since the two immediately started up a conversation on local imports. She didn't really want to interrupt, but she wanted to finish making her purchases.
"Um ... Excuse me. This fabric ... how much is it per arm-length?" she asked hesitantly.
Looking up at the kerchief covered head of his customer, the gray-haired old man gave an apologetic look to his companion and answered. "The deeper red is 5 per, and the black is 3. Did you want some?"
"Aa. Give me four lengths of the darker and two of the black. I think that will be all for me."
His friend, a young man in muted gray-blue and white, who wore a turban wrapped around his head, although she could see the blonde hair sticking out from underneath it, glanced at her. "You're a kaikyaku, aren't you? I can tell by your accent." He smiled at her, his bright blue eyes twinkling in good humor. "You speak our language very well."
"I had a good teacher. Not a very patient one, but a good one nonetheless," she replied. "I'm Kirei. You are?"
"Uh ... Rokuta. Pleased to meet you. By the way, who's your friend on your shoulder? It's a Sounchu, right?"
Looking startled for a moment, she reached up almost reflexively to stroke the small youma's head. "Hai. This is Tsuki. Don't worry she doesn't bite," she hastily reassured the shopkeeper, who looked like he was about to faint.
"I'm impressed. Sounchu don't like humans much. How long have you had her?" he asked, reaching up to gently stroke her frill. "She's lovely. You take very good care of her, don't you?"
Flushing at the unexpected compliment, Kirei nodded and said, "She's followed me for about a year and a half now. Isn't that about right, Tsuki?" she asked,
"In a word, correct. Like either of us could forget the day we met!" she hissed back.
Laughing out right, she tapped her friend under her chin. "Right you are," she said with a laugh. Noting Rokuta's wide eyes she frowned. "Is something wrong, Rokuta?"
Shaking his head to clear it, he gave the young woman before him a penetrating look. "You really ... hear her, don't you?" he asked suspiciously.
Shrugging she counted out her money and handed the shopkeeper the amount she owed him, patiently ignoring his awed look. "I can understand all my friends. Is that odd?"
"Most people can't hear the youma. Those that can are all sages, immortals. That you can hear them, without the aid of a contract is very ... unique. You said all your friends. I take it you have other youma who follow you?" he asked casually as they walked outside, placing his hands behind his head.
She nodded. "Two. But ... I don't think I should tell you what they are." She gave him a wary glance out of the corner of her eyes.
"Oh? Why not?"
Sighing she looked at the sky. "They're a bit ... unusual. I could introduce you ... I just don't want you to get eaten. I don't let them hunt humans, but anything else is fair game. And if they perceive a threat, not even I can hold them back."
Snorting, Rokuta scratched the back of his head. "I'm fairly certain I can handle them."
Giving him a look of worry she finally huffed, looked away, and said quietly, "Kyuuei is a toutetsu."
Rokuta froze. 'A toutetsu? Impossible. One has never been tamed by a human before. And the only Kirin to have one as a shirei is Taiki.' "How ... how did you manage to tame a toutetsu?"
Laughing sardonically at his shocked expression she turned down an alley. "I wouldn't exactly call him tame. I raised him myself, after the group I was with ran across the nest on a hunt. The place as demolished and the adults were dead. I wasn't about to leave him there to die. Of course keeping him got me kicked out of the group I was with. I've pretty much been on my own ever since. That was six years ago." Sighing, Kirei shifted the packages in her arms.
"Six years? How old are you?"
"Nineteen. I've been here since I was eleven. Ah well, I've always been the adventurous sort. I was always getting scolded for climbing trees, or digging for bugs, or anything of that sort. I was always getting in trouble with my foster parents for stuff like that. They wanted me to act more 'feminine'. Just because I was a girl. Bah. What a waste of time. Eh ... sorry. I tend to ramble. I like talking about my past, even if I don't want to go back. You know the saying, 'to remember fondly'?" Passing through the city gates she turned up toward the hill where her friends waited. "They're up there. Are you sure you want to meet them?"
"Of course. I just want to know why they follow you. It is quite unusual." He laughed, his face bright with curiosity. This, he was certain, was bound to be good. "Say, wait a minute. Foster parents?"
"Yeah. My real parents died when I was still very young. I was placed in foster care and then I wound up here. It's kind of like an orphanage, only there's normally only two or three other kids in the same house, rather than a dozen or more. My foster parents were pretty good, but it never felt like home to me. I like this place. I can come and go as I please, the food is good, and there's always something interesting to do. Oy! Kyuuei! Kenichi! I'm back!"
"Ah. And you bring unexpected company with you. I don't suppose he's dinner?" Kyuuei's low growl vibrated in the air as he rose from his prone position. For such a large creature he was good at looking like a rug, she'd noticed.
"No you great beast! He wanted to meet you guys," she responded with a laugh as she dropped her parcels to wrap her arms about her friend's neck. With her face buried in Kyuuei's soft, thick, black fur she wasn't able to see the look that passed between him and Rokuta.
Rokuta knew instantly that the toutetsu knew what he was. Which was all to the good for him, as long as the youma didn't say anything to her about it. After all was said and done, he liked being able to wander among the people he was bound to watch over. He enjoyed talking to them, and as often as not, much of that information on what the citizens wanted or needed was passed on to Shouryu. He was sort of the Emperor's ear to the ground, so to speak. He wasn't sure what this kaikyaku girl's reaction to his true status would be, and didn't want to lose the budding friendship. Shaking his head at the beast, he settled himself on a rock, crossing his arms over his chest. "Kyuuei, right? So who's Kenichi?"
Settling herself down by the toutetsu's side, she started going through her purchases. "Mmm. Kenichi is up in the tree. He is a bird, after all. You wanna come down, Ken-chan?"
Looking up at the sound of something hopping from branch to branch, Rokuta blinked hard when the youma finally landed in a patch of sunlight. 'Great. First a toutetsu, now this? She's making us Kirin look bad.' he grumbled to himself. In the sunlight the white feather-scales of the bird were nearly blinding. A foot long, hooked beak clacked at him expressively under calm scarlet eyes. "A retsusui? Damn. I thought they only nested in shallow caves in sheer cliffs overlooking the White Sea."
Nodding as she unwrapped some of the things she'd bought, she rubbed the back of her head with a blush staining her cheeks. "I came across him while sailing the White Sea. He'd been attacked by a Koucho, and had a broken wing. I fixed him up, repairing his wing as best as I could. I knew enough about anatomy to know that even if it healed perfectly, he still may not have been able to fly again. Bird bones are hard to deal with because they are hollow, to keep the body light enough to fly. I was fortunate that it was a clean break, rather than a green-stick or shatter. I kept it immobile and fed him fish I caught. As you can see he healed up very well indeed. He can even still fly, although he can't get very far while carrying prey. The weight would be too much."
"You seem to know an awful lot for someone so young," Rokuta remarked casually, holding up his arm in a perch offering, and bracing himself for the massive bird's weight. The restsusui was easily twice the size of the largest bird of prey he'd ever seen in Hourai, the golden eagle. Once the large bird had settled on his arm he looked up at his current companion.
"Aa," she said rather wryly. "Back in Hourai, children are tested every few years to measure their mental growth. The scores garnered from these tests are called I.Q. I think it stands for intelligence quotient or something stupid like that. Even children as young as three are given these tests. The better the score, the more intelligent that person is. Any score above 175, I think, is considered 'genius', that is to say smarter than nearly everyone else. The last one I took my score came back at 153. But I was always reading, so ... I personally don't think it's very accurate. I just like to learn." She sighed. "A lot of the things on the test are logic puzzles and they're very strictly timed. How quickly you can figure something out is as important as figuring it out in the first place."
"So according to this test, you're practically a genius, and learn things faster than everybody else. Interesting. You don't sound too happy about it," the kirin replied, gently scratching the small patch of soft feathers under Kenichi's beak.
Packing everything except the fabric into the pack Kyuuei carried around for her, she took a few minutes to gather her thoughts. "Well ... It's just that everyone back there expected me to do better than I did in school. I've already said I like learning, but ... I hate school. If I wanna know something, I go look it up on my own. I learn it when I want to learn it. My teachers were always getting on my case about not reading what they wanted me to read. Even when I could prove that I knew more about the subject than they did, they'd give me bad marks or extra homework. When I came here, it was different. There were higher schools, but they weren't mandatory. If I wanted to learn something all I had to do was go buy the book, or ask someone who would know. No one was telling me to do this, or go there, or you don't need to know that. Nothing I wanted to know was forbidden me, as long I was willing to work for it. Granted, I got lucky I originally landed here in En, there were already schools set up to help people like me, to teach us the language and other general things that are normally common knowledge. I breezed through that. Now ... I know more or less everything I need to know to get by here. I have something I can do to earn money, I have clothes on my back, usually a roof to sleep under, and a few good friends, who've stuck by me through everything. What more could I want?"
"Not much. You've been very lucky." Rokuta had to agree there. She had been very lucky. She come out of a difficult situation swinging … how did that saying in Hourai go … Swinging for the bleachers?
Smiling, she lay back against Kyuuei's side. "Yeah, life's been good." She reached up and scratched her friend behind his ears. "Mostly I hire myself out as a caravan guard, or something like that. With Kyuuei at my side, even if we were attacked, they wouldn't last long. Most people are glad to find out after they hire me that they're actually getting four guards for the price of one. I never need to worry about feeding these guys, since I let them hunt, as long as they don't hunt anything domesticated. So far it's worked out really good."
"You've got a good head on your shoulders. Have ... " he trailed off and looked over his shoulder at the tall man striding up the hill. "Ah, geeze. Looks like I have to go." With effort he gave the huge bird on his arm a push into the sky. Kenichi flapped a few times and came to rest in the lowest branches of the tree.
Cocking her head at the man with a wickedly knowing expression, she hid a arrogantly amused smirk and stretched out her legs, crossing her ankle while she leaned up against Kyuuei. After watching the odd pair argue for a moment she started laughing. Granted the man was wearing plain clothes in blues and browns, but he wore authority like a well-loved cloak. Waving her hand at them when they looked down at her, she suppressed her chuckles with effort. "If you're expecting me to bow, don't hold your breath," she said with a smirk. "I spent my childhood in a democracy," she continued with a wink and a raised finger.
They blinked at each other for a few seconds, then the newcomer started laughing and made himself comfortable on the ground before her. At last he asked "What gave it away? And what's a democracy?"
"Mmm. First a democracy is a government comprised entirely of citizen-elected officials. It's probably the most corrupt government possible, but it works, more or less. As for the other question ..." she grinned at him. "A number of things. Mostly him," she said pointing at Rokuta.
"So when did you figure me out?" Rokuta asked with a cute pout, realizing that she'd known all along.
Chuckling she replied and pointed at his head. "The moment I saw that very blonde hair sticking out of the turban. Your disguise is quite good, but the clothes, while plain, are of too good a quality for the average town kid. And I knew you couldn't be an apprentice anywhere, since you'd be working with your master if you were. And unless you were a merchant apprentice or a scribe you wouldn't have been down at the docks. But you couldn't have been that since there weren't any ink stains on your fingers. And you don't do physical work; the skin on your hands is baby soft. So that left someone from the palace, and not a servant either, cause you would have been wearing your master's crest somewhere visible on your clothes. So I knew from the get go you were some kind of nobility, and since the only person I know of at the palace that has blonde hair is the Taiho ... well it wasn't that hard to figure out."
After a few moments of amused silence, Shouryu choked out past his suppressed laughter "Are you spy trained or something like that? You're quite observant."
She waved him off. "I just pay attention. And I have a very good memory. Besides, I know what to look for mostly because I hide a few very interesting physical features myself," she said as she pulled the black kerchief off her head and revealing her white hair, pulled back in a tight ponytail. "As far as I know my hair's always been white," Kirei said with a sigh for looks of shock.
Reaching over, Rokuta ran his fingers through it lightly. "Interesting. Damn, and I thought I had a hard hair color to hide. Some how, I don't think yours would take a dye color very well, if at all. But, hey, it's kinda pretty, especially with your toasty skin color and violet eyes."
Rubbing her neck and blushing furiously, Kirei shrugged. "I've never really paid much attention to my looks. It always seemed to be a waste of time." she laughed. "After all, who cares if a mercenary looks pretty?"
"A mercenary? Well I suppose with that big fellow behind you, not many things will bother you when you're on the road. Rokuta, you always meet the most interesting people. Speaking of which, how's Kouya these days anyway?"
Hopping off the rock with a grunt, Rokuta nodded as he stared off into the west. "Aa. He seems to be doing alright. I see him now and then when I visit the sages."
Drawing her knees up, Kirei frowned at her new friends. They both looked rather ... sad. "Who is he?" she asked quietly.
"Kouya, or Kenrou Shinkun, is an old friend of mine," said the blonde kirin with a sigh as he took off the turban. "There was a civil war four hundred years ago here in En and somehow we wound up on opposite sides. Everything turned out well in the end, but the person to whom he'd given his loyalty betrayed the absolute trust Kouya had in him. He was ... crushed. Shouryu and I promised that one day he'd be able to return with his Tenken and no one would look twice at him. Ever since he's been waiting in the Yellow Sea for that to happen."
"So he's immortal, is he? Well, I wonder if he realizes he could come back now. Then again," she offered hesitantly "Maybe he doesn't want to come back. Maybe he's happy where he is and doing what he does."
"Maybe." He shrugged and turned to Shouryu. "So what brought you out today, anyway, Shouryu? Tired of the ministers blubbering already?"
"Mmmm, no. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about a country-wide festival to celebrate my five hundred years as emperor. With everything going so well, I thought it'd be a good idea to give the people something to break the monotony. The people would probably love a reason take a few days off."
"Not everyone is a slacker like you," Rokuta shot back.
"You're no better. Who misses morning assembly nearly every day? Lazy, boneheaded!"
"Slimeball!"
"Ancient-brat!"
"Lecherous sleaze!"
"Louse-brain!"
Kirei fought hard to keep herself from laughing outright at the progressively more outrageous insults being traded back and forth between the Emperor and Taiho of En. Reaching up as it came back around for Rokuta's turn she grabbed his ear, yanked him down, and whispered into it. When he blinked and looked at her in confusion she explained what the insult she'd just given him meant. His face turned bright red.
"Male gigolo!" crowed Rokuta, sticking his tongue out at Shouryu.
Shouryu blinked and the other two looked at each other and burst out laughing, falling on each other in their attempt to catch their breath, but every time they looked over at Shouryu, they couldn't help but start laughing again at his obvious confusion.
Finally, when she calmed down enough to speak understandably, she explained it. Only to find herself being tickled mercilessly by a laughing Shouryu, while Rokuta giggled madly in the background moments later.
Off to the side, Kyuuei and Tsuki watched the foolery going on with resignation and joy. Resignation at the thought of their human friend ever behaving maturely and joy at seeing her happy. Wasn't it just last night that she had complained of being lonely for some human contact?
Once they were all breathless, the three flopped back in the grass and just chuckled at each other. Kirei's hair lay spread out in the green grasses, and the shift of color from grass to hair was startling. “Oh, I haven't had that much fun in a long time,” she sighed as she stretched out in the grass and watched the clouds as they passed.
Enki and Shouryu glanced at each other with a small smile tilting their lips up in private amusement. They were in complete silent agreement, they liked this strange girl. Rokuta had a few suspicions about her origins, but for now he was keeping his mouth shut. Such things were so rare that he seriously doubted that even Souki had ever seen one. And that kirin was a hundred years older than he! Either way, he liked Kirei and hoped she liked him. He knew Shouryu liked her; he liked anyone who treated him like he was a normal person. It was one of the reasons he was always taking off to some unknown destination under an assumed name.
“Ne, Kirei-san, I don't suppose I could tempt you into visiting Hankyuu Palace?” asked Shouryu as he sat up to look at the snow-haired girl. He was reminded of Gyousou briefly. He had had white hair too. But her eyes were so different. There was a … shadow in them that the Tai-ou lacked, or at least had in a different way. Gyousou was a warrior, he'd seen countless battles, large and small and had learned to be harsh and cold when needed; this lithe girl was a fighter, true, but she was still very young. Yet something about the way she held herself spoke of wisdom that only time and harsh trials could grant. How much had she suffered in Hourai before she came here, he wondered. Shaking off his thoughts he continued to look at his new companion interestedly.
“Haa!” snorted Rokuta. “You just want to terrorize the ministers! I can just imagine their reaction to a trio of youma traipsing around the palace! After all, do you remember how they reacted when you brought Kouya and Rokuta to the palace?” Glancing at Kirei he added, “Rokuta is Kouya's Tenken. He named him after me.”
Avoiding the curious gaze of En-ou, Kirei looked to her friends. “Well, guys? What do you think?” she asked. Truthfully the thought of visiting Hankyuu palace scared the crap out of her. She had no idea how to deal with nobility, except when it came to taking their money for jobs. Not that she wasn't dealing with the Emperor and Enki quite well, but from what she knew of them, they were rather unusual as far as Emperors and Kirin go.
“We go,” answered Kyuuei with a soft, soothing growl, almost like a purr, as he nuzzled her neck. Kirei looked up at him curiously. Meeting his pale hazel eyes she asked him a question silently. “Was it not just last night you complained of feeling lonely? This human has reigned for five hundred years. He will treat you well. An Emperor does not last so long with out wisdom, kindness, and compassion.” Kyuuei lectured, also thinking that this man might be good for his chosen heart-sister (for lack of any better term to call her; she certainly wasn't his master) in other ways. She needed a heart-companion, someone human she could trust as much as she trusted the three of them.
Not for the first time, Kirei got the feeling that Kyuuei was much older than he appeared. Quite often he would come up with some really meaningful bit of advice that he couldn't have gotten while he had traveled with her. Still, he had been her staunch ally for so long she wasn't going to question him about it. She loved him too much.
“I agree. Interacting with humans on a more personal level will be good for you. Ever since we began traveling with you, you have become more and more isolated from your own kind,” Kenichi said, swiveling his head toward her from his perch in the tree. “True, we love you, and you us, but few will ever understand us. We are your family,” he pronounced solemnly. “Take this opportunity to make some human friends. It is obvious these two will accept you as you are. Give them the opportunity to see why we stay with you. They will come to care for you as much as we do.”
Flushing slightly, Kirei looked back at Shouryu and shrugged sheepishly. “I guess we're going. They seem to be of the opinion that it would be a good thing. Let me pack up,” she said as she rose and began gathering the parcels that had become scattered in the roughhousing between the three of them.
Shouryu and Rokuta stood and dusted themselves off, and Rokuta re-wound the turban around his head with a soft sigh. How he hated the thing. But it was a necessary part of his disguise so he had to tolerate it. Shouryu, having no such problems with hiding his identity, hid a smirk at the resignation on his kirin's face. Looking back at Kirei he cocked his head to the side in curiousity as she neatly and quickly tucked her belongings into the small backpack she carried. Then his brows rose when she slid a pair of knife sheathes onto her arms and another pair of daggers into her boots. Slinging her pack onto her back, she walked over to the tree and picked up an five and a half foot long iron capped staff and attached a length of rope to it to toss it crossways over her right shoulder.
He whistled when her movements revealed a belt of throwing daggers the size of a large finger. “Ever the prepared one, aren't you?” he asked.
“Huh?” she asked distractedly while she made sure everything was secure, tugging on the hems of her clothes and readjusting her pack to accommodate the staff more comfortably.
“I see you are well-armed. And with good quality weapons as well. You must have done well for yourself to afford such workmanship.”
Blinking at him, she frowned slightly. “I suppose so. I never really thought much about it. I work, feed and clothe myself with the money from that and set the extra aside. I mean, I wander everywhere, what use do I have for luxuries? Give me some sturdy clothing and food to eat and I am happy. Or at very least content. The least I can do is equip myself with the best weapons available, though I don't use them much. Any edged weapon is meant for killing and nothing else. I prefer to avoid that whenever possible, so I generally stick to my fists or staff. I have enough speed in combat to make up for it.”
Now looking truly intrigued, Shouryu tilted his head to the other side, a widening smirk stretching his lips in anticipation. “Oh, is that so? Perhaps you would spar with me later, then?” The idea of fighting her was appealing, he was watching her move about and had come to realize that not one single motion was wasted, she moved with purpose, her movements easy and controlled. She was, most definitely, a fighter. Her muscle tone was well developed and she held herself with the unconscious poise that only a warrior had. Yes, fighting her would be fun indeed.
Rokuta felt the growing interest in Shouryu the longer the man watched the young woman move about. Which was kind of odd, really; Shouryu had never shown such a personal interest in anyone before. Maybe having her around would do him some good. Shouryu got bored too easily. If they could get her to stick around for longer than a few days … maybe he could get Shouryu to do some real work for once. He'd been skipping out more and more ever since the whole thing with Yoko had ended. He knew it was just boredom after the excitement of the previous few years, but it was really getting ridiculus. … Not that he was any better. He trusted Shouryu, but sometimes he'd do things that at the time seemed to have no real purpose. Shaking his thoughts away, he did a quick handstand and flipped himself back to his feet. “So, we ready to go?” he asked.
Turning toward the city, Shouryu walked off, “I need to retrieve my suguu. Wait for me here,” he said when the pair would have followed.
“I guess we wait then,” she said bemusedly.
 
<<Whoot!>>
Well. I finally got around to revising this. I hope you like. Please send me reviews. I plan on working on this a little more for now. My Betas for “Predator and Prey” Kita and Subu-chan are incommunicado at the moment so that will not be updated until they get in contact with me.


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