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ᴋᴀᴛᴀɴᴀɢᴀᴛᴀʀɪ ; ᴀ ᴛᴀʟᴇ ᴏғ sᴡᴏʀᴅs ; 刀語 「ƒᴇʀᴀʟ + ᴄʜᴇᴠᴀʟɪᴇʀ」

Chevalier

𝔇𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔢𝔯𝔬𝔲𝔰
Joined
Dec 31, 2018
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TACHI - 太刀
「*The tachi (太刀) is a style of Japanese sword (nihonto) that preceded the uchigatana (gatana/katana) family of swords.」

"Minako 'Tachi' Izanami"
ミナコ イザナミ
The disgraced Rōnin 浪人
| Wanderer, Mercenary, Monster Hunter |

__________________________________
There were stories in the rain.

The rain was the world's history, compressed into little drops of water, beaded and distributed vividly across the land. The rain told you everything about nature, how the sky and earth, two things that never touched, could finally meet and embrace one another like distant lovers. To Tachi, lumbering through what had been a long, lonely trail, the rain had become a familiar, though unwelcome companion. It was the enemy that kissed her, its frigid bite reminding the beleaguered warrior that she was very much alive, all the while drawing out memories of the days she would perch against the wall and listen to the innocent patter of water across her windowsill. Those were simpler times then, the darkened memories of her youth a distant, yet vibrant reality.

Pressing through the encroaching storm, the lone silhouette sauntered across the empty road until she reached the nearby town, flocks of farmers scattering like ants amidst the torrential downpour that began to pelt the surrounding area. With the speed at which the peasants dispersed, one might have mistaken the cascade of rain for a deadly volley of arrows. But it didn't take her long to realize that their retreat was not due to the relentless assault by mother nature, but rather because of the mysterious, sword-wielding figure that had managed to find her way into their village. As she passed through the town's border and began to move between the now sparsely populated streets, she could feel the eyes of the town's denizens transfixed upon her from the safety of their hovels.

"Tch. Not a very warm welcome." Supple lips mused to themselves, auburn gemstones dipping beneath a circular, straw hat. It never was, for the sight of a lone, sword-wielding woman could have been seen to the villagers as an omen in of itself... but one from a distant land? A recipe for disaster. Over her years wandering the beautiful yet inhospitable lands of Xinwe, Tachi had become accustomed to such treatment by the locals. She need not even remember the names of these villages, interspersed like the trees of a forest between every major city. For her time in each village told the same tale, the local village-dwellers always ready to shower the wandering swordswoman with endless disdain. But while perturbed glares and venomous words became old quite quickly, they were far better than what the daughter of the Izanami family would receive in her homeland: a swift death. It is this reality that leaves Tachi wandering from village to village, taking upon whatever work might place a roof over her head and a glass of wine between her lips.

Like always, Tachi's feet sought to carry her to the village tavern. It was quickly becoming routine for the wanderer to immediately set herself in direction of the nearest inn upon reaching civilization, so that the busty foreigner could hastily drink herself underneath the table. The only problem with such an intricate and complex plan was that she didn't have money,
of course, but really, who did nowadays? Hopping from town to town, she had always managed to find ways to pay her debts. Whether it be through hard labor in the fields, to cutting down a vicious monster or unlucky bandit with her blade. It was all the same to her, but she soon found that each journey had a different lesson to teach, a new adventure to play. While some may have seen it as a tragic lifestyle to live, Tachi couldn't have fathomed it any other way.

Finally finding the tavern at the town's center, Tachi made her approach, pressing herself against the doors of the sizable establishment. The woman donned a tattered yukata, the once proud, triangular symbol displayed on the back now faded and droopy - as if the symbol itself had belonged from a distant era long forgotten. Dark kaleidoscopes studied the surrounding room before she navigated her hand upwards, removing the drenched straw hat that shielded raven locks from the rain's embrace. Surprisingly, the backwater, village tavern was lively with patrons, who roared drunkenly with the same vigor as the thunder that brewed ominously outside. To find a busy tavern was a situation that was rather uncommon for the wanderer, but luckily, her famished gaze managed to spot an empty seat at the center of the nearby bar. Raising her finger, she politely waved towards the empty seat, where she was greeted by the unceremonious glares of nearly every entity in the room. It seemed that even in busy company, that the meandering eyes of the Xinwe locals could find the presence of a filthy outsider.

It almost seemed as if she would be kicked out of the establishment, until the gruff innkeeper, fat and bearded, shot a begrudged tilt towards the last open seat, beckoning for the tired samurai to claim it. A customer was a customer, after all, if only he knew earlier that this one had no money from which to pay. Heels clattered against creaky, wooden floorboards as Tachi wasted no time in drawing towards her seat, sliding the tall barstool backwards before nestling her blessedly shaped backside into the horizontal veneer.

"Nigori sake, onegaishimasu." She bowed her head slightly before sliding her sword scabbard between her plush thighs, so that she may cradle her ancestral blade against her tall, slender legs.

The swordswoman's request was met with a quick glare, "Does this look like Akana to you?" The innkeeper scoffed, the stench of his breath permeating the space between him and the unwelcomed foreigner. "You can sit here, but if you keep using that filthy, pig-faced language, then I'll kick your ass out faster than you came in."

Minako chuckled, her mischievous portrait leaning closer towards the innkeeper, "You're a charming one, aren't you?" She might have spat a wittier riposte at the villager had she not craved the taste of alcohol. "I'll take a hot sake, then." Her voice was smooth and despite her noticeable accent, possessed a sultry, almost exotic flair to it. She spoke in a calm manner, one that dribbled confidence and femininity.

"Hrmfph. Of course you would." He croaked, grumbling something about 'Akanese bitches' underneath his breath, only semi-audible, but loud enough over the other rowdy denizens for her to hear. She paid no mention to the verbal poison, having grown well-accustomed to such a manner. Such ill-intentioned words were almost as assured as the rising sun emerging from the east and settling behind the mountains of the west.

"So, hon." She watched with practiced impatience as she waited for the shot glass and its accompanying liquor to be set down on the bar countertop just beneath her favorably stacked chest, "What sort of work is there to do around here?" Her lips creased into a feigned smile. She could be charming, when she tried to be, "A girl has to earn her living, you know."

The grumpy bartender glanced up and down, his gaze lingering uncomfortably long over the slit in Minako's yukata, ogling the young swordswoman's cleavage before trailing down towards her exposed legs. Between them, his eyes finally nestled upon her sword, the mark of a self-proclaimed warrior. "If you actually know how to use that thing, then perhaps you're not useless after all. There's a beast at night that has been scaring away the livestock." He rolled his eyes, for a moment wondering why he was bothering to tell the woman this. "The village pooled together a fair ransom to find and kill the beast. Nobody has seen it, but the guards that have gone looking for it have all ended up disappearing."

"Oh? Interesting." She mused, half-dismissively. She cared not for stories of beasts, but at the promise of coin, then even the most boring of tales could become more interesting. "Perhaps I could help out with this beast problem of yours."

But first, she was going to drink herself into a stupor.


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ƒeral

ℌᴀᴛᴇ ᴍᴇ, ℭʜᴀꜱᴇ ᴍᴇ, 𝔖ᴛɪʟʟ ᴛʀʏɴᴀ ʀᴇᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴍᴇ
Joined
Sep 9, 2015



花璇月
Hua Xuan Yue
‘The Flawless Jade Moon’
| The displaced heiress, The would be inheritor, The ancestral blade re-forged |
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[沧海一声笑]


Once upon a time, she had fond memories of rain.

The smithy was never silent - inside those layered brick walls, the tink of metal rang in a constant melody, sounds that echoed upon themselves, echoing in her memories. Clinking, scraping, the hiss of cooling metal, the bellow of fans, the quiet crackle of fire and above all else, the shiiiing of a newly forged blade being tested for the first time.

In those hot summer days, when the heat of the forge scorched her fair skin and caused sweat to bead at her brows, it had been rain that brought her comfort. The pitter patter of that mercurial element falling upon the scarified stone pathways broke the monotony of ringing metal, suffusing the world in a coolness that leached the fever of flames. The rain cleansed all that it touched, purging the world of dust and grime. And, when she stepped out to let rain drops caress the pale of her hair, let each kiss upon her silken skin, that temperate chill always cooled the heat of her blood. And in those moments, she loved the rain, loved it so that she would sip upon fine baijiu, lounged in plush pillows and draped in overpriced silk, orating poems about the rain to her latest lover with lidded eyelids and a coy smile.

But it had also been raining on that day, on the day her father died and her ancestral blade was shattered. On that day, even the rain could not purify the blood that stained her robes, could not absolve her grief nor pacify her anger. All that the rain had washed away was her right to her surname.

And today, as sky itself wept, as dark, stormy clouds concealed the moon, her namesake, Xuan Yue cursed the rain. It was a veritable downpour before she returned from her successful hunt, and she pulled the plain gray cloak tighter about her form. The coarse fabric was soaked entirely through, and beneath, the reinforced cloth of her armor glued to her unpleasantly. The silk that trailed her asymmetrical pauldron clung to her like the sticky membrane of an insect undergoing metamorphosis, lacking entirely in its intended refinement. And her mood was as damp as the weather. Only the fire of her eyes remained.

At least the rain had managed to wash the fresh gore from her hastily purchased travel cloak by the time she returned to town. She didn’t hide her face when she pushed open the tavern door, pushing the damp hood off and to the side. There was no point. As much as she might try to evade that rat bastard’s information network, his spy masters would find her the same. It was better simply to drift, to never lingering at one place for more than a night.

And, one look at her, and it was clear why she would always be found. While all of her features were stunning, her hair was the most distinctive. The pristine white took on the colors of firelight from the dim hearth of the tavern, shimmering with a luminosity that put the moon to shame. Beneath her hair line, crimson split in graceful arching lines, twin inversed blades framing a single diamond, a shade startlingly vibrant against her flawless skin. Her brows were dark, so dark that one might have wondered whether the hue of her hair was artificial. A thought to be dismissed by all but the foolish, for no dye could ever hope to replicate perfection. And even her lovely almond-shaped eyes could not contain the fire that danced in her amber gaze, much as even the soft blush of her cheeks could not contain the sharp cuts of her jaw, the proudness of her nose, or the harsh, pursed line of those cupid-bow lips.

Xuan Yue’s beauty was so pronounced that but for the blood-soaked bag she carried, but for the handle of a too-large sword sticking out from behind her back, it would not have been an unlikely scenario for her to have been mobbed by some of the drunken fools housed within these walls.

“Don’t bother. It’s dead.” She remarked, carelessly, having caught that last bit of conversation even as she waded through the crowd to approach the bar. The smooth mezzo-soprano of her voice dripped with an arrogance that could only come from two decades and a few spent in the lap of luxury.

“Check it if you want.” She added to the innkeeper, throwing the gore-soaked sack onto the counter, her brows wrinkling with disdain even as she parted with her unpleasant trophy. Beneath the too-large cloak, bits and pieces of her armor peaked out, glimpses of precious metal and vibrant colors that all led to the inevitable conclusion of wealth. She was slim beneath it all, the pleasing lines of her form contradicted the oversized claymore strapped to her back. The weapon was carried without a sheath, and, while not dull, it was thoroughly unimpressive beyond how very large it was.

“And when you are done, ready my payment. You may deduct the cost of my drinks and my room before counting the coins.” There was a certain cadence to the way she spoke, almost as though barking out orders, the haughty sweep of her gaze making it clear just what she thought of the inn and its denizens. Those accentuated dark brows furrowed upon realizing that the room was full.

And it was then that her gaze fell upon Tachi. There was a flash to her eyes then, and her lips curved wickedly.

“Oh, aren’t you a pretty thing,” Xuan Yue teased with a smile as presumptuous as her fingers, her index reaching beneath a shapely chin, pressing up with intent. “So sorry about the little beastie you wanted to slay.” She said, without a singular hint of apology reaching her eyes. “But you are very much in the seat I want…” Her fingers fanned like lightning, seizing that chin now, just a hint too tight. “Would you be so kind as to move yourself out of the way?” Even the honey that laced her words could not erase the unreasonableness of her demand.

 
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Chevalier

Chevalier

𝔇𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔢𝔯𝔬𝔲𝔰
Joined
Dec 31, 2018
e5NWJ6y.png

For a fleeting, transient moment, Tachi was pleased to have found work in this decrepit village, as the promise of slaying a beast in exchange for coin had always been a quick way to earn one's drink and a roof over their head. It probably would have been a simple enough task, one that the wandering swordswoman would have jumped upon... if another had not already taken the initiative first. Before she could even down the first drink between plush lips, the chirp of another drew out the brunette's attention. Auburn optics shifted, lazily glancing at the woman who carried the head of her hunt to the bar countertop. The woman who possessed the head of the slain beast screamed Xinwe aristocracy, clad head to toe in fine, white silk tabards and pauldrons accented with a nearly ostentatious amount of gold. She did not seem like the type who would be killing monsters for gold.

"Well, it seems like the early bird has snatched the worm." The swordswoman's gaze surrendered no hint of annoyance, but even a sheltered noblewoman would have been able to guess that she was brooding. Judging by the size of the head which thumped upon the bar counter, the beast must have snatched a fair purse of coin, enough for several drinks and a night's stay, at the very least. But what was done was done. Tachi would have been content with disappearing into the crowd, drinking the night away and coming up with some other means of paying her tab when the sun rose in the east once more. Yet, as the glass of sake rose to her lips, she heard the refined chirp of that haughty voice once again dribble into her ears.


“Oh, aren’t you a pretty thing,”

Every one of the wandering swordswoman's instincts told her to ignore the well-dressed stranger, for her words oozed an arrogance that was greater than the claymore slung openly across her back. There were so many red flags raised in a single moment, yet Tachi had always succumbed to a great weakness, one that might very well be her undoing: curiosity. Her gaze slowly shifted to the woman speaking to her, vibrant gemstones reaching upwards to the woman only to be met with a single digit claiming the underside of her chin. How cute. That this woman thought that a little touch and nectar-laced words would give her what she wanted. "Ah, you can't find your own seat? How disappointing." The edges of her lips drew upwards, painting a mischievous grin to match the wickedness of her newfound rival.

"Don't worry, Princess, I've saved one for you right here." Tachi moved the sheathed blade that rested between her thighs to her side, so that she may pat down the newfound space in her empty lap. "Perhaps you can sit here and tell us all about how you heroically slayed your beast and saved the village." An offer that was more insult than anything else, Tachi couldn't help but antagonize the woman who so callously claimed her chin. Feminine digits sauntered upwards, her single index finding the tip of silvered bangs. "Or... you could use that hard-earned gold of yours to buy a pretty girl a drink." Slowly, she began to twirl at the strands of hair that cascaded down the flank of the woman's noble portrait.

It almost seemed as if the energy that beamed between their seductive glares would have been enough to cleave mountains into two. Their faces hovered dangerously close together now, warm exhalations brushing against opposite lips as neither figure deigned to make the first move. The cataclysmic roar of thunder continued to clash outside, the torrential downpour that gripped the countryside becoming more inhospitable with each, passing moment. Tachi's offhand carefully reached to her side, slender fingers making their way to the hilt of her sword. Lost in the stranger's alluring gaze was a brimming, haughty fire, one that warned Tachi of unpredictable, passionate intentions. It would have been such a shame to strike down such a prepossessing figure, but the wandering swordswoman knew what it meant to take a life in the name of her own survival.
 

ƒeral

ℌᴀᴛᴇ ᴍᴇ, ℭʜᴀꜱᴇ ᴍᴇ, 𝔖ᴛɪʟʟ ᴛʀʏɴᴀ ʀᴇᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴍᴇ
Joined
Sep 9, 2015

The second that sheathed blade moved, her eyes snapped to it viper-fast. And, but for the distinct lack of a murderous aura, she would have done far more. The sword drew her attention almost as much as the foreigner did. Without being able to assess the blade itself, she couldn’t tell much about the weapon even in spite of all her trainings in weaponcrafting. That said, the hilt and the sheath were unusual. She knew the design, of course, while forging uchigatana was not something she trained in, it would be an insult to her surname to not be familiar with the preferred weapons of Xinwe’s neighbors. No, what was unusual was to see such a blade in so meager a village, wielded by a woman no less. Her gaze flicked up and she gave Taichi a double-take, noting the details she had failed to register the first time around.

And, if her scorching gaze lingered a second too long on those uncovered thighs, well, she was just checking out the sword of course. A wry smile tugged at her lips as she came upon the inevitable conclusion. Why, this swordswoman looked almost as out of place here as Xuan Yue herself did. But, as those accented words continued to fall, something stony shuttered across her face, and her smile tightened. There was a hard glint to her eyes, a flare of fury at being defied. Everything from her bristling gaze to her tense lips told the same story - Xuan Yue was not used to being refused in any way, much less by a commoner, even if a foreigner. And oh, she was most definitely aware of the bite in that dulcet tone, even the blatant flirtation not enough to mask the clear provocation. Used as she was to singing the same tune, it was not one she ever song in duet.

For a second, she almost faltered. She was not inexperienced, per se, but her sample size was too repetitive. And, as they continued to glare at each other, as she lacerated Taichi with heated daggers that was equal parts anger and equal parts something else, it was she who swallowed too thickly and pulled away first. And, if those infuriatingly calm gemstones turned smug, Xuan Yue didn’t see it. She was already turning around to scowl at the innkeeper instead, her inflection notably more irritated than before.


Well? Are you going to make me wait for an answer all day?”

She groused; even the way her jaw clenched was fetching when combined with her looks. And, as the startled man yielded to the rancor in her gaze and hastily loosened the sack enough to glance inside, his suddenly pale face appeased some of Xuan Yue’s foul temper.

“Y-yes, of course. Your Ladyship has been most generous in freeing us of this beast. Here’s your key, I will most certainly have your coins ready come tomorrow morning.”

He stammered, attempting his utmost at politeness. If Xuan Yue’s less than stellar personality was not intimidating enough, even a fool would recognize her armor as marks of nobility. The difference in the way he treated the young noble and Taichi was night and day.

“Hmph.”

She took the proffered key, and her scowl deepened even more when she felt the grease that coated it. Disgusting. This whole place was disgusting. This was the first time she had ventured so far from Mount Hua, and never in a million years would she have guessed just how filthy the world was.

But, keenly aware that she had lost their little bout of sorts, Xuan Yue was most definitely not about to leave without a parting shot.


“Oh, and put her drink, singular, on my tab.” She decreed, before turning to walk towards the stairs. Her smirk was derisive as she tossed a singular glance over her shoulder. “A sword without a master...I suppose you are deserving of some pity.” She could have picked up more of Tachi’s bill easily, but, the drink was nothing more than a taunt. She was hardly about to reward a rebellious commoner with something so generous.

»»ᅳThe next dayᅳ►

It was near dusk. The weather had cleared, but the sudden storm had muddied the road, making travel that much more difficult. The cloak she abandoned at the tavern; the coarse fabric had stiffened after drying from rain-mixed blood, and much as she hated exposure to the elements, she couldn’t justifying besmirching her skin with it any longer.

She had been traveling all day, stopping only for a short rest near midday, and she was exhausted. Her constitution was more than adequate, but she was used to training and to forging, not to something as mundane and tiresome as walking kilometers at a time. Horses existed for a reason. But, with her first one stolen and second one eaten, she loathed to admit that she lacked the coins to purchase another.

As it were, the road winded along a gentle slope, and the grass surrounding the well-trodden path flirted with the breeze. The terrain was relatively even, and, other than a few ancient trees that dotted the path, there were not many barriers to visibility. Xuan Yue paused, staring at one of the largest trees. The branches were thick, and she couldn’t see much past the dense foliage. The tree provided plenty of cover, even if comfort was another matter entirety. But, without a village anywhere in sight, it was certainly better than the muddied path. Xuan Yue heaved a heavy sigh and resigned herself to the disgruntling thought of spending a night atop this very tree.

However, before she could put plan to action, she snapped to attention at the distant sound of heavy hooves beating through sludge. She considered taking cover but...if the riders had came for her, then there wouldn’t be much of a point anyway. Her struggles with uncle Hua Fan Yun had been the same since the very start - she could run, but never hide. So instead, she calmly removed the claymore from the belts that held it in place, leaned the edge of it against the ground, and waited.

A feigned calm that was shattered when the riders came into view.

Her lips curled into a snarl and her grip on the hilt tightened. If she had haunches, they would have risen too. At the forefront of the inverse ‘v’ rode a familiar sight, a swordswoman clad in sleek black and pastel lavender, the same shades as her hair and eyes, respectively. Her hair was half done up and half worn down, and Xuan Yue hated the fact that she instantly remembered the scent of it - the faint lilac fragrance of crape myrtles, the same as the woman’s name.

Her gaze was guarded when the retinue of riders pulled to a stop, but despite the clear tension of her frame, she said nothing.

Zi Wei had no such reservations. She and the rest of the swordsmen sworn to Hua Fan Yun dismounted a respectful distance away, and, with a gesture of her hand, she commanded that they stay. Her smile was easy and contrasted heavily with the venom in Xuan Yue’s eyes.


“Xuan-er, that’s far enough. It’s time to go home now. I promise Lord Hua will not seek retribution if you just return the Firebrand’s hilt.” She said, with a gentleness that belied the tension in the swordsmen a stone's throw away. Zi Wei walked up smoothly, presumptuously, until she was only a few meters away, stopped only by the uplifted claymore pointed directly at her. Her beauty was of a more temperate sort when compared against Hua Jing Yang’s only daughter. And, when they stood in proximity, there was no denying that they looked good next to one another.

“Xuan-er?” Xuan Yue laughed then, cruel and mocking, her silver-white locks quivering with the force of it. “Is that still something you are worthy of calling me?” And, when Hua Fan Yun’s foremost disciple furrowed her brows, lips parting as though to contravene, Xuan Yue just laughed harder.

“Shut your fucking mouth.” She swore, the rawness of her fury driving her to vulgarity. “Your conniving scum of a master poisoned my father and shattered his legacy, and you think I would just let him have his coronation as Head of House so easily?”

“Xuan Yue, don’t--”

“Or what?” She growled out, her chi bellowing out with the force of her rage, lifting the decorated silk of her armor and her bangs alike. “Enough talk. Draw your sword. Oh, and tell your dogs to come all at once. You’ve never bested me one on one, remember?”

Zi Wei sighed then. She much preferred talk, but Xuan Yue was beyond reason. And, whether she liked it or not, she had a mission to carry out. Between her master and her once-lover, the side she chose was obvious. She raised her hand again, and the eight trained swordsmen rushed. While none of them were as highly ranked as her, it was clear that this was no rabble. Their footwork was precise and their swords sure.

And, with Zi Wei leading the formation, they circled around Xuan Yue as though slithering shadows, perfectly in sync. The sword formation of Mount Hua was as famous as its swords. Each would come with flawless ebb and flow, bridging any gap from another and leaving not a single crack to escape through. Xuan Yue knew that one slip-up, and she would be gifted a fresh bloody hole. But she was nothing if not stubborn, and, with a practiced exhale, she calmed her breathing and readied herself for combat. Bravado aside, this was going to be a tough fight.
 
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OP
Chevalier

Chevalier

𝔇𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔢𝔯𝔬𝔲𝔰
Joined
Dec 31, 2018
e5NWJ6y.png

For but a single, transient moment, Tachi could see the unbridled spark of disdain that lingered deep within the stranger's scorching glare. That prepossessing gaze that lurked up and down, hovering curiously long over the sword which waited at the wanderer's side. Tachi could feel the stranger sizing her up, like a hunter carefully circling their prey before making their attack. Pretty gemstones raveled about, each gaze surrendering little as each figure awaited the other to make the first move. But every passing moment only managed to feed more into Tachi's curiosity. For while the wandering swordswoman had traveled the Xinwe countryside for many years now, she had never encountered a woman so refined, that dribbled arrogance with each movement she made, that spat haughtiness with every word that left her pretty lips.

It seemed that Tachi enjoyed pretty, yet dangerous things.

Luckily, spiteful glares were dispelled by a wayward smile, which seemed to signal that she had no intentions of fighting... at least not for now. Rather, the aristocrat's attention would beam off to the uninviting bartender, redirecting her temper towards the only man who had been watching their exchange. The change in the stranger's demeanor wasn't lost on Tachi, her flirtatious arrogance exchanged for one more openly-hostile and forthcoming. Either Tachi's sword was enough of a deterrent, or the woman simply had a penchant for a pretty face was a mystery that she would have the rest of the night to consider.

"Aw. Here I thought we were just starting to get along." Tachi returned the woman's smile with one of her own, content to enjoy the drink that she had managed to score for free. That was until the stranger left a final quip that irked the swordswoman a bit more than she expected it would have. A sword without a master. Pity. The hand that had been bringing steaming sake to plush lips paused, a single brow twitching maliciously as the struck cord continued to reverberate long after the stranger was gone. It was only after the woman had disappeared out of earshot that Tachi cooed a half-lidded insult from underneath her shot glass:


"Bitch."

▤⠀⠀⠀⠀▤⠀⠀⠀⠀▤⠀⠀⠀⠀▤

⠀⠀明 日⠀⠀
The Next Day

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The rain's inhospitable embrace had finally dissipated back into the warm gaze of sunlight, delivering a much needed respite for the wandering swordswoman to travel from one village to the next. It was disappointing that she had been unsuccessful in finding any sort of meaningful work in the last village, though leaving a city empty-handed was always preferable to being chased from the walls by angry, pitchfork wielding villagers. Tachi had forgone expecting the luxury of hot meals and warm beds a long time ago, years of poor exile in Xinwe had taught her well how to live off of the land: to catch and prepare fish from the nearby rivers, or illegally hunt game when nobody was around to challenge her.

Tachi had spent the better part of the day traveling, having no clear direction apart from the next village. Though she traveled reasonably quick for a woman on foot, she was not limited to simply scaling the muddied roads that linked each village together. Tachi had become a capable tracker, able to deviate far away from man-paved streets and the guidance of wooden roadsigns that often outdated and led inexperienced travelers astray. She knew which forests to hunt, which trees were best to sleep in, which rivers were best to fish. It was such knowledge that led her to a nearby river clearing, just off of the main road and obscured by a dense arrangement of trees. With still hours of sunlight before dusk, Tachi took the opportunity to strip free of her clothes, first washing them in the relatively cleaner waters of the nearby spring before hanging them in the sun's gaze so that they could dry.

Then, she finally basked herself in the warm waters, dragging herself inelegantly to submerge herself completely. It was only after the hot water touched muddied flesh did Tachi finally feel her muscles
ache. Her body throbbed and groaned, every inch of her flesh seared as a day's worth of physical discomfort came bubbling to the surface. Eventually, dark optics grumbled above water level, followed by a nose, mouth, then a mournful sigh. Discomfort soon became more palatable, and it wasn't long until Tachi found herself losing track of time within the waters.

It wouldn't be until the sun had hung high and began cresting over the western mountains that Tachi could hear commotion in the distance. It didn't take an experienced tracker to feel the thunderous chorus of warhorse hooves beating into muddied roads out in the distance. The ground reverberated in their quake, disturbing the once tranquil waters that lay still. A dozen? Perhaps slightly less. Regardless, the smart move would have been to hide and let them pass, but of course, Tachi never always chose the smart move. Curiosity was forever cursed to be her weakness.

Emerging from the waters, she quickly dried and dressed herself, moving to the treeline so that she could observe a single figure being surrounded by several others. Upon closer inspection, Tachi immediately recognized the woman at the group's center as being the one from the bar. "Oh? How interesting." She mused quietly to herself, before her eyes caught a better vantage point above. Silently, Tachi grabbed ahold of the tree she had been hiding behind, scaling up its massive trunk before finding a hidden branch that she could nestle upon. She found herself positioned just atop the group, looking down into the fight that was about to transpire below. Though she had no intentions of jumping into the fight herself, Tachi managed to catch the tail end of their conversations, allowing her to at least partially piece together the situation.

When the eight swordsmen surged forward to meet the silver-haired woman in battle, Tachi did exactly what every one of her senses guided her
not to do. Without a thought, her hand gripped upon the handle of her sword, a quick flick of the blade slicing the oak branch she was sitting on into two. Gravity would do the rest, sending the unwelcomed eavesdropper unceremoniously plummeting down to the ground below. "AHHHH!" Her shriek was amusingly feigned as the woman fell between the group, causing the assault of the swordsmen to stop suddenly in their tracks as a stranger suddenly landed between them. Tachi seized the moment of surprise to fake injury, slowly rising to her feet as she rubbed the back of her head with her sword hand. "Kuso..." She cursed in her foreign language, her offhand holding the center of her scabbard.

"Ah!" She immediately snapped to attention, "You're that woman from the bar." Tachi ignored the noblewoman's sword-wielding opponents, instead turning to her as if danger hadn't been lurking just behind her. "You know, I had to sleep out on the street again because of you-"

"Ahem." A voice from behind interrupted, pulling Tachi's attention. "Who are you?" One of the swordsmen asked.

"Looks like a drunk peasant." Another of the group spat, "Let's just kill them both and be done with it."


"Well, what are you fools waiting for?!" One of the men shrilled before pulling out of formation, charging forward with his sword held high above his head. It seemed like the strange swordswoman had no intentions of fighting back, her sword still clad in its sheath as the skilled warrior rushed closer to meet her. Only a few more steps and he would be able to bring his blade down upon her, cleave the stranger into two. It was almost too easy - to strike a woman down before she could even draw her -

BOOM!
It was a sudden sound, loud and cataclysmic, followed by a brief gust of wind that almost sent the steady warriors off of their feet. Its shockwave disturbed the trees, sending branches and leaves waving in disarray. The swordsman who had rushed forward had paused, sword still hanging high above his head. Other than the sound, it appeared that nothing had been accomplished, that whatever attack she had made had failed or missed completely. But it was only a moment before everyone would be able to see it: the slow trickle of blood that quickly devolved into a waterfall of crimson. The man had been cleaved in two, split completely horizontally across his chest, his panicked gaze frozen as the reality of his death slowly caught up to him. He was still alive, until the upper half of his cleaved carcass fell pathetically upon the ground beneath their feet.

"How the fuck?!" The men gasped, sweat beading down their foreheads as they watched one of their own cut down so effortlessly. "She- she didn't even draw her sword!"

"Are you so sure of that?" Tachi's lips curled upwards into a monstrous grin. As if to prove her point, she pulled her sword an inch from its sheath, so that they could watch the blood of their companion trickle down from the base of her sword.

“However much she's paying you... our master will double.” It was clear that the woman at the head of the group was their leader, the rest of the warriors pausing seemingly at her command. But even as the negotiations began, Tachi could see the warriors moving in the corner of her visage, each one searching for an opportunity to strike.

"Paying me? You guys are getting paid?" Tachi mused, retreating several steps behind her until her back gently brushed against the woman behind her. "Which ones do you want to take?"
 

ƒeral

ℌᴀᴛᴇ ᴍᴇ, ℭʜᴀꜱᴇ ᴍᴇ, 𝔖ᴛɪʟʟ ᴛʀʏɴᴀ ʀᴇᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴍᴇ
Joined
Sep 9, 2015

“AHHHH!”

The shriek cut through her focus the same as all other swordsmen present. Not because it was particularly loud or unpleasant, but because it was so very unexpected. Xuan Yue recognized the lost ronin instantly; the woman stood out like a sore thumb even in these desolate roads. Her grip on the sword handle tightened even as the stranger rose from the ground, acting with unnecessary melodrama and feigning clumsiness. At least, Xuan Yue hoped it was an act. Hua Fan Yun would never stoop to sending such a graceless foreigner after herself, and so the woman was no threat. But, knowing her uncle and his men, if this ronin was genuinely this inept, then she was seconds away from becoming minced meat and Xuan Yue didn’t need the extra blood on her hands.

“Stop talking.”

She snapped in return, not out of rudeness, but because a conversation with Tachi would only make the woman more of a target. Though, she supposed that ultimately, it made no difference. If Hua Fan Yun wanted the Firebrand badly enough to murder his niece for it, he certainly wouldn’t be dumb enough to leave any witnesses. The only consolation, if there was one, was that this particular sword formation was designed to contain only one. Against two, they would necessarily shift into a an eight-star formation, meaning--

To her expectations, one man rushed forward even as the rest hurried to reform the formation. But what she did not expect was for Tachi to stand there, sword undrawn. She couldn’t see the woman’s face from her peripheral, but her own darkened with annoyance. So the uchigatana was for show then. With both hands on the hilt, she slashed forward at the cautiously circling men, intending only to feign at an assault so she could spring around and intercept the lunging figure. She had no love for the brash ronin, but at the end of the day, this was her battle, and she wasn’t one to stand idle and let an unrelated passersby be cut down.


However, before she could even fully spin around, Tachi had already moved. Xuan Yue witnessed it, just barely, and was not quite sure what she even saw. The draw was so quick that the blade had been entirely invisible. She registered only the flick of wrist and a horizontal flash before the blade was already sheathed, so quick that had she blinked, she would have missed it in its entirety. Who… Who was this woman. That technique was like nothing she had ever seen, and, if she were being honest, she wasn’t so sure that she could have intercepted that attack herself. That thought and the cacophony made her narrow her eyes. And, though she would never admit it, she was glad that this stranger was on her side, at least for the time being.

As the now shaken assailants and the astonishing foreigner continued their verbal spar, Xuan Yue was uncharacteristically silent. Those blazing ambers shone with singular focus, entirely uninterested even in Zi Wei’s predictable attempt at bribery. Gods, whatever did she ever see in that woman. That much was obvious, however. If Tachi paid any attention at all, she would have surely noted the similarities between her build and roguishly attractive features as compared to the foe intent on winning her over. If Xuan Yue had a type, it certainly wasn’t subtle.

"Which ones do you want to take?"

When the inquiry came, she finally found the opening she was looking for.

“Handle the one directly left of you, I’ll deal with the rest.”

She shouted, projecting her voice far louder than necessary given their proximity. But, whether Tachi had intended to follow her instruction or not, Xuan Yue was already launching an advance on her own. Even as the semi-circle on her side rushed forward, slashing in unison, she was already prepared. A single step forward as she brought that massive sword across in a horizontal slash, precisely one-hundred-eighty degrees as she parried all of the blows. And she would have pressed forward then, but her focus wasn’t on them.

As she had expected, the one she had called out was staring at the foreigner with undivided attention. He was too experienced to tremble, but there was hesitation there all the same. And it was precisely that fear that would spell his undoing. For at the end of that forceful slash, Xuan Yue did not still her strike as one might expect. No, she allowed the hilt to leave her hand entirety, the momentum carrying that heavy steel forward with deadly intent. And the man, so focused upon Tachi, reacted far too late, his eyes widening with realization even as he gurgled on his own blood, skewered right through the chest.

And Xuan Yue certainly did not stop there. She was a blur behind the make-shift projectile. Instead of yanking her sword free and subjecting her unblemished armor to an outburst of gore, she simply helped herself to his sword from his weakening grasp. He certainly didn’t need it anymore. The formation, disrupted twice over, was falling into shambles. The men rushed like mad dogs driven against the wall.


"Kill them. KILL THEM."

She parried once, twice, steel clinking against steel in rapid succession as she wove in and out of salvos of attacks almost effortlessly. The diaphanous silks trailing her armor and pauldron fluttered with each movement, more beautiful than any butterfly wings even as spots of blood spluttered onto the pristine white. Unlike Tachi and her treasured ancestral blade, Xuan Yue was entirely indifferent to the weapons she wielded. If it was a sword, she could subjugate it to her purpose. And, at least until such time when she could reforge the Firebrand, she had no particular love for any of them.

As such, she wielded her borrowed weapon carelessly, and if it dulled from where it cleaved into bone, she merely replaced it with the next. The finesse and precision with which she moved made it abundantly clear that she hadn’t exaggerated in her earlier statements. She had trained in the art of war since age three, and had been proclaimed by many masters as a prodigy. Though what she wielded now was a cutting edge instead of bamboo, the motions were the same.

Ah, but where was....


“Tch.”

She snarled, locating her mark too late. Zi Wei was already more than one-half of the distance to the warhorses. The stallions, bred for war, snorted in agitation as the sounds of combat rang out, but were far too well-trained to leave without their riders. But that was precisely what Xuan Yue was hoping for. The soles of her boots scarcely touched the ground as she shrugged off the last two remaining swordsmen, making a beeline for the furthest right horses. Although her sword techniques were impressive, her advantage has always laid in her Qinggong*. And, with the formation broken, there was nothing to constrain her speed. Despite Zi Wei’s lead, Xuan Yue arrived by the horses at the same time. Blood roared in her ears and demanded that she chase down the traitor, but her good sense won out and she managed to snatch exactly two sets of reins even as Zi Wei mounted her own steed and urged the rest of the horses to bolt.

“Tell my bastard uncle to come himself next time, so I can cut down the both of you at the same time.” She shouted to the quickly vanishing profile, too busy wrangling the two unruly beasts to give chase. The stallions grunted and those heavy hooves thumped against the ground in agitation, but her grip was as uncompromising as her will. These were Hua warhorses, her warhorses. And she would make them obey.

As for the last two remaining opponents, well, if Tachi hasn’t dealt with them yet already, then that booming strike must’ve been nothing but a gimmick. Breaking the two upset horses commanded her attention, but, by the time the fight ends, one way or another, she would have already mounted one of them. The other she led by her side, quelling it by the reins, before she commanded the beasts to circle around, allowing her to access the carnage. If Tachi still stood, then she would urge her mount to slowly canter over.

*A wuxia thing.
 
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Chevalier

Chevalier

𝔇𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔢𝔯𝔬𝔲𝔰
Joined
Dec 31, 2018
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A hand hovered over the hilt of her blade as their opponents circled them, eyes carefully watching for any hint of weakness in the pair's defense. Tachi and the stranger behind her were woefully outnumbered, but still an important question lingered that would decide the victor of the skirmish: who was the hunter, and who was the prey. The swordswoman waited for her spontaneously chosen ally to pick a target out for her, but when she called to strike upon the opponent to her left, she immediately noticed the shift in the noblewoman's footwork. If her target hadn't been any less stupid, he would have seen her telegraphed attack coming from a mile away. Tachi watched in her peripheral vision as the silver-haired Xinwen woman dashed across the field, thrusting her blade into her opponent before using his own upon the next. Though there was some technique to how she danced with her sword, it was one that Tachi found crude and unrefined.

"Do all Xinwen fight like barbarians?" She cooed, barely audible to Xuan Yue over the ringing of steel and rending of flesh. Even with her stoic attitude, the two opponents that Tachi had been left with dared not move. The Akanese swordmaster had driven patience into their hearts, each one trying to find some sort of weakness in Tachi's defense. But how could they find fragility in her stance when she didn't even draw her weapon? It was only a few moments later that the experienced warriors would find bravery in their hearts, quickly glancing at one another before choosing to strike at the same time.

"Perhaps you're not all as stupid as I thought." Tachi mused as the two men dispersed, taking each of Tachi's exposed flanks with the intent on forcing her to defend from one direction. Perhaps, such a strategy would have worked if they had been more capable opponents.

Tachi's legs carefully spread across the muddied road, lowering herself slightly so that she could widen her stance. Then she waited, eyes flickering back and forth as the men charged at her from both sides. She could feel her heartbeat slow, the rotation of the earth seemingly decelerating with it, until the seconds seemed like they had multiplied ten-fold. Her focus intensified, eyelids slowly obfuscating her vision and shrouding it in darkness. There she waited, the heavy steps of charging warriors across the muddied road reverberating within her mind. One from the left, one from the right. The sounds became louder with each moment as the men drew closer and closer.

Not yet.

Her hand hovered closer to the sword she held at waist level, feminine digits spread over the hilt of her still-sheathed blade. But within darkness, Tachi could see her: the little girl that always haunted her dreams.

"Not yet." A familiar, yet distant voice shrilled from beyond. "To master the art of Iaijutsu is to master deception, patience - grace. Try closing your eyes, little one."


"But father, how can I see my opponent if my eyes are closed?" Minako Izanami whispered back. Long ago, she had been a young, starry-eyed girl, with delusions of a future that could never come to pass. Such innocence no longer existed, having long ago been desecrated by jealousy and pride. After all, Minako Izanami had been destined for marriage, not to wield a sword.

"To become faster than sound itself, you must first learn how fast sound is. Close your eyes and wait." She could hear it now, the sound of the bouncing ball that pounded against the veneer of the dōjō floor. "Not yet." He repeated, as Minako focused upon the approaching sound. It pattered rhythmically, growing louder with each, subsequent bounce. She stood still, waiting... listening, until the ball tapped against the ground a final time, the sound booming within her mind. She didn't need her father to tell her when to strike. As the ball hovered in mid air, her hand took its rightful place upon her blade.

It was at that moment, Minako had cleaved not a ball, but destiny itself.

Tachi's eyes fluttered open, the hand at her side now gripping upon the stingray-leather that textured the handle of her sword. It was at that moment that she struck, the curved edge of her blade gliding free from its sheath, multiplying in speed as she summoned forth her steel-forged birthright. It flew up and outwards, blade crackling as a bright light flashed temporarily from its cutting edge. She slashed forth, horizontally, spread in a full arc in front of her before hastily returning the lightning-surged blade back into its scabbard. In a single slash, the two men were left frozen, still holding their blades as Tachi turned towards Xuan Yue.

"Hmmm. A thoughtful gesture... however..." The swordmaster glanced at the woman, before towards the horses that Xuan Yue had pilfered from their now fallen enemies.

"I... I don't know how to ride a horse, aha~" She remarked with an apologetic grin, hand rubbing the back of her head awkwardly. As the words left her lips, the two warriors behind her were split into four, their inanimate bodies drooping down before collapsing upon the ground with a loud 'THUD!'
 

ƒeral

ℌᴀᴛᴇ ᴍᴇ, ℭʜᴀꜱᴇ ᴍᴇ, 𝔖ᴛɪʟʟ ᴛʀʏɴᴀ ʀᴇᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴍᴇ
Joined
Sep 9, 2015



“So sell it then.” Came the hasty retort, even as she dismounted and closed in on the swordswoman. The horses snorted and threw their manes around, clearly distressed by the permanence of blood in the air, but they no longer refused Xuan Yue in the slightest. There was an edge to the noblewoman’s voice, a tension about her frame and a poorly concealed agitation that brimmed in her eyes. She paid little heed to the gory display. In truth, the senseless slaughter bothered her, but her father had always taught her to be pragmatic, and this had clearly came down to kill or be killed. And, it was not the blood that stirred her emotions, but this whole situation.

Adrenaline still coursed through her veins, and with each too-rapid heartbeat, she was suffused with anger and unease and grief. Although she would never dignify the later with words. She had been curt in her exchange with the Hua swordswoman, but in truth, her overt display of enmity had been a mask for her hurt. Even before any sort of romantic dalliance between the two of them, Xuan Yue had always looked up to Zi Wei as her senior in swordsmanship. And, even when she eclipsed the woman, that admiration did not stop. She supposed that in the aftermath of her uncle’s coup, it made sense that the woman would side with the master that gave her everything, but then again, there was never much logic in heartbreak.

She wanted to lash out. The fight had been unsatisfactory; after Tachi’s surprise appearance broke the famed Hua sword formation, the men had scarcely offered a challenge. Her troubled psyche howled for violence, for some way to disperse the agitation that rattled her every bone and and singed every nerve, and the Akanese presented a clear target. However, at the end of the day, however spoilt she might be, Xuan Yue was not a bad person, and her unexpected ally had done nothing to deserve her misdirected wrath. And so, with a clench of her jaw and a steadying exhale, she tried again, this time more diplomatically.

“I’m sorry, that was rude of me.” Apologetic was not a look she casually wore, and her contrite ambers stared at the reins in her hand even as she all but gritted the words out. “What I mean to say is, I would like to express my gratitude for your aid earlier.” This situation was so foreign and so uncomfortable to her that she continued to ramble, as if she could drown her inner turmoil with an overabundance of speech. “This stallion is thoroughbred, and only two or three generations removed from a prized imperial steed. If you mention that you acquired it from the Hua House, it would fetch a fine price.” Certainly more gold than the destitute looking ronin was used to handling on a daily basis, but she resisted the urge to snark, reminding herself once again that she was trying to make a friend, not another enemy. Her apparent knowledge did beg the question though; why did she know quite so much about a ‘pilfered’ steed?

But, such questions would have to remain unanswered for now as the noblewoman carried on, determined to get through her soliloquy before embarrassment robbed her fortitude. Despite how the encounter had shaped out, she knew well just what her uncle was capable of. And, if he was capable of tracking her down once, he would be capable of tracking her down again, and she doubted that there would a deus ex machina that would conveniently appear the second time around. However much she resented asking for assistance, she was not a fool, and the Akanese swordmaster had proven herself useful, if nothing else. “Look, I don’t have a lot of coins to pay you with right now, but I could use your swordarm by my side.” Xuan Yue finally lifted her gaze to meet Tachi’s once more, and her aristocratic features contorted with chagrin. She looked almost pained to admit her fallibility. “My journey ahead is treacherous, but if I succeed, I will reward you enough that you could live the rest of your life comfortably if you so wished. This warhorse is only a down payment.” She hesitated a fraction, before adding. “And if that’s not enough, then name your price.”
 
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