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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:25 pm 
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Their victory was celebrated with drink, as was the clan's usual custom. The sake pillaged from the company flowed endlessly among them, cups drained and refilled with a victorious cheer among my people. Our tents stood in a wide circle, the group gathered around the center fire to share stories and dreams. Some played music, others interrupted into song. They were kind and vulgar, winks and nudges shared with laughter. It created an atmosphere of bravery, one attempt at serenating me earning a soft glare from the Commander and laughs from the rest.

'Oh evening star how you sit
so beautiful, bright and fair
among us three dozen I must admit
I don't see how you can be so unaware

You capture our hearts with every dawn
Yet leave us empty and cold at dusk
I would wish your warmth not gone
For your coldness leaves me an empty husk'


Inwardly I smiled, turning my attention again back to my writing. They are young and foolish, but a man will fancy what he cannot have and I have no wish to stop them the journey that was youth. I did not drink, Akumaru's threat still sitting in my gut.

The Commander had extracted every bit of information he felt he could from my old friend. I saw him once before he succumbed to the wounds he'd received in being captured. His words in the end had been rambled as I sat near and watched, listening to his hurried remarks as death came and escorted him across the gate into a different world. I did not trust what he'd told the Commander; why would one tell the truth, knowing that even lying would still bring the same end? But still, here we were from his directions, his warning words echoing in my head every time someone else drank another glass.

”Don't drink the sake.”

Marick and Kemori drank despite me sharing the warning, shrugging it off in favor of celebrating a victory I did not feel was honorable. He chose to continuously trade blows with this group, back and forth, more lives lost every time. This time they'd come back with everyone. But even as I retired to my tent, I couldn't help but think there were better ways to deal with his problem. Ones that didn't involve revenge.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:34 pm 
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Angrily the earth shook beneath my body, jolting me from my sleep and instantly rousing me from my tent. My eyes watered and stung from the smoke and ash billowing around me. Another explosion rocked the area, burning sharapnel flinging itself everywhere as I landed on the ground, still muddled from sleep. As my hands beat and brushed at my clothing, I noticed two things: there were people moving outside the ring of our camp and there was no one else yet out of their tents. The beating sound of hooves carried past the crackling of my shelter as it burned, dark shadows fast disappearing eerily through the wisps of smoke.

Everything was alight, my skin beading with sweat as I grabbed my weapon and bag and moved to find the others.

The Commander's tent was already half engulfed but yet as I ducked through the opening, he lay still and quiet in sleep. I struck him once in an attempt to wake him and ended up wasting some time in dragging him out with his sword myself after he continued to keep still. It was the same for Saraki. By the time I succeeded with the larger man, Marick's tent collasped inwards, scattering hot ashes in every direction. It was an inferno. The heat ate my energy, my muscles fighting against the work. Continuing down the line of rank was Kemori, but when I entered her tent I found it empty. I was forced to continue on towards the others; eventually I stopped trying to wake them and just drug them out.

It wasn't until I'd gotten three recruits out that Marick had started to stir, giving me a dazed look as I let fall a body into the middle of the furnace. My tent fell in. By the fifth body he had started to help. Throughout it all I couldn't help the feeling in my gut that told me every one of them was drugged. No one should’ve slept through that chaos.

There are moments where time stretches and seems to never end; time here was like trying to hold onto the sand as it slipped through my fingers. Not three tents later Marick held me back from entering another, the last dozen collapsing.

”Don't drink the sake. She belongs with me.”

My warning had gone unheard, and hours later as I stared at the bodies of those we lost, I could not stop gazing at Kemori's lifeless form. No breath eased her into motion; no amount of silent pleading fluttered her lashes. She was gone in the same way my parents were, the same way Akumaru was.

I was not the only one who'd loved her. Saraki crouched beside me, the large man as silent in his grief as I was. Though I was unable to tell if he felt anger or guilt over the situation, I left him with her, with my princess Akumaru had taken.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:55 pm 
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"Why is it I am always clumsy when you're around?" The words came out sullen and full of blame, disappointment lacing my already freezing cold limbs with a dull heaviness. Marick was attempting to teach me Shunpo. The thin ice covering the lake was an ideal spot to learn, he said, with its crackling warning and weak support. The island in the middle of the lake was warm and inviting, a thick tree stretching its limbs to the star filled sky and our fire talking to itself as I grumbled. The ice had been too weak and I had fallen through into the icy water, an act I was sure Marick allowed to happen. He seemed too cheerful pulling me out of its depths for it to be an accident.

"I believe they have a word for that, but you with your steadfast resolve against emotions wouldn't like to hear it."

My face hardened almost imperceptibly, but he caught it and gave a wide grin in return. Sitting in front of the fire, my limbs continued to shiver despite my instructions for them to do otherwise. I knew how he'd go about this a second before he offered me a thick blanket to wrap myself in. I did so without looking at him, knowing the grin that he'd already plastered onto his face.

He had changed, somewhat, after Kemori's death. It was an odd sort of agreement between us; he listened to me more and I began to speak to him like he existed. Like he was more than the Commander I'd been passed off to. There were times I caught him looking at me with this far off, sad expression, and I knew he was trying to apologize about my friend's death. The words never came out, but we'd developed a silent understanding. Less and less did we sack villages and kill innocents, the overall feeling of the clan shifting from a group with no direction or care for life to one with a purpose, one with a sliver of honor.

Marick's arms loosely encircled me as he dealt with me in the same manner he dealt with the ice: slowly, carefully, waiting for the crackling warning. He stayed like that, frozen, waiting for what felt like an unbelievably long time until they tightened minutely and side by side we rest back against the tree and one another. It was not an unwelcome feeling, to be encased by warmth, even if it was the warmth of another person. I could feel his muscles relax after mine did, the shivering slowing to small shakes.

We both waited for the other to pull away, for the moment to fall apart, but I didn't. And with a small surprising realization, I knew I didn't want him to, either.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:42 pm 
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Out of the shadows his form shifted, the first glimmers of the soft rain bleeding away into his dry clothing.

“I’ve been watching since I arrived here, constantly aware that you are the one thing which doesn’t belong. You don’t speak up, you don’t draw your sword, you don’t fight. It’s been bugging me, Ms. Sasaki, how you could end up with one of the highest ranked positions here.”

His drawling voice was in no way masked to keep the volume down but I was the only one observing. From the distance that I kept myself hidden, I could feel that breath-holding tension of watching a snake still itself before the strike. Saraki had not chosen a good match for these two, though surely he had his reasons for putting the new recruit under her for teaching. But he had no respect for her, none at all. Surprising how I noticed that now as I watched them alone. If for whatever reason one of the highest ranked people was never challenged or given sarcasm for it, why in the world would you take the time to purposefully insult them? But even now as I struggle to mentally tell him to just walk away, his deep laughter echoed from his chest. “I knew it couldn’t have been because of skill; did you sleep your way to the top?”

Arrogance: here the rain came down to coat his hair and clothing; it was this vile thing which dripped from him to poison the ground. His words seemed to fail in getting the reaction he so desired, his next action of drawing his short swords not budging the snake at all. I, however, was interested in seeing this reaction, too. I also find myself unaware of how many such accusations our growing relationship had brought to her. She has never spoken or complained of it.

“Let’s get this over with. The sooner I defeat you, the sooner I can be put under someone else’s care. I thought Saraki could see how powerful I am, maybe teach me himself. After outing you maybe he will.”

Very simply, he was a fool.

He rushed her. I had to cover my mouth to keep from making noise as she tripped him into the mud, pivoting out of his way. From my place, I felt his anger like the sun on a hot day. When he rose they were fighting, my Lieutenant drawing her katana to repel the blows he sent at her. Relentlessly he attacked, this new recruit left to find out by example why she was where she was. I had not chosen her because of our relationship. Where Saraki was loud and strong, she was quiet and stealthy. She kept her cool when the others, even myself, gave in to emotions. Even now this was evident, the recruit letting anger make him sloppy, just as she knew it would. I admired her way of teaching though I must admit, I like my own methods, too; watching her grow into our relationship was one of the best things.

He was not without reason to boast, however. Where she attacked he was there to block, the both of them keeping the other from completing anything for quite some time. But even I knew the inevitable had to come eventually.

Their quickly moving bodies came to a stop so unexpectedly. I had missed the blow, his weapons dropping to the ground so his hands could tend to other things.

From between blood coated fingers there were sights of smooth, bunched up things pressing heavily against the pressure he applied to his own body, weight pushing his knees into the rain soaked ground as his eyes, once so full of scorn and a hint of blackmail, turned up to her. The pain and fear extinguished what had once been in that gaze until the only thing he could mutter was a plea for help. The things he kept trying to keep in himself, his very organs, seemed to be winning the battle and there was no mercy in the places he was searching. She gave him nothing on that expressionless mask of her’s. He, who had hinted that the only reason she had power and position was a relationship, downed by a slash that gave him reason to believe perhaps that wasn’t the case.

His expression gave words to the silence at his lips. Oh god, she’s going to let me die.

He fell over in the rain and I let her make the decision. Once her first yell for help broke through the rain I jumped from the trees and ran. She could have let him die, but she didn’t. We held the cut closed, the both of us, until Jana came to help. But not once did she speak of his behavior, our hands coated in blood as we stayed there in the rain, in silence. In the recruit, she had instilled fear and respect. In me, she introduced mercy. In Jana, well, she just curses more at us, but I like to think we’re all becoming better people.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:16 pm 
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[There is a substantial gap of a year between writings.]

Indecision pokes and prods at the unseen selfishness and chivalry that lies within my heart, battering it around to leave it bruised and all the more broken than before.

Exhausted now we rest, her form still with sleep. If I could keep us like this forever I would. But not with all the power that I possess, all the knowledge and feeling within me, none of it can keep her safe. Not if she comes with us.

To think we both started off so differently. It has been some time since I've written anything down. Anything about the clan. Anything about her. Stella, too, has slacked on her journal. This is not a bad thing. We've become engrossed with one another this past year.

It pains me to imagine taking her with and having them figure it out. Tangled together even now and with the feelings that have taken root I’m not sure I could lie well enough about it to not make her a target. She could though. I do not see her apathy so much these days but I could with a targeted tease or insult. This woman I have fallen in love with could lie if it meant saving me from death.. but I am afraid of failing.

So I will keep her safe.

She sleeps now. Though guilt threatens to ruin everything the decision has been made and with a parting kiss I etch into my brain the content ease with which she curls her body to mine and that smile she dozes away with.

I expect half a year to pass before all is said and done. Half a year for her to forgive me for leaving her behind. Half a year where I will be struggling with the fact I cannot be with her until I do my duty. Where I will be watching those who serve me perish in the act of creating peace. Half a year before our lives begin. Just half a year.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:18 pm 
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You’ve shown me an enduring strength and fierce loyalty that I have not found elsewhere in any of the many acquaintances I’ve made over the years. No one else has consistently stood by my side throughout the many problems I’ve faced.

I told you last night of the latest. The only way to end this blood war that I started is to go and fix it myself. I do not know who or if any will return and that small truth has changed everything. You have changed everything. If I could be absolutely certain you would make it I would not leave you here, but I can’t. And with that I will not risk having to watch you die. Years ago I would not have followed this path, but you've instilled knowledge and honor within me. Now I know that I have no other choice if I wish to be with you.

Over land and through time we will go. Other dimensions and places... whole worlds apart from this one exist. I do not know what path we will have to take but you will not be at risk. I’ve torn from my writing the mentions of you and leave them here now. Read them, keep them, burn them. Do what you wish but with them I leave one promise, Stella.

I will come back for you.
Marick

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:26 pm 
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[This is the mark of a five year gap between Marick's letter that he left Stella for when she woke and the beginning of the King of Darkness Tournament. Though she waited for him to return, the six months came and went. Another six months. Another. None of the clan returned during the time she waited. This post and the next three can be found interlaced with the first post of each round of the tournament.]

Long digits created a symphony of purity, each touch to the strings and keys plucking a thread long since iced over within her heart. A wordless song wrapped itself around her until she was rooted to the spot, a gentle wind of this manifestation that was beauty in measure and melody managing to hold her there. A pronounced euphoria warmed itself in her body, a march of bumps and hairs raising in appreciation to the way such a simple song could pour its effects into its listeners.

Wisping furls of sake tickled sharply at her nostrils, memories clashing with the serenity of the scene before her which she was vividly but secretly enjoying. An opened door to a church remained her perch, armored body fitted to the frame as she watched the chorale.

“As divinely inspired in looks as those who would disseminate a description of you have said...”

Wondering who would spread to others how she looked, a break in the steady trance she had been in and turn of her head was immediate. Gaze collapsing onto the short wise man at her elbow, it was peculiar how she hadn’t noticed him before. Unsure of how long he’d been there, the warrior turned slightly towards him with a small bow of her head to him for his words, though unsettling as they were. Weathered and aging, a face deep with character that it had taken years to accumulate it all turned up to her own. Fair brows so wrinkled and sagging it took him a moment of arching one to pierce her soul with the watery cerulean of his own eyes. A boney finger barely covered in taut flesh poked up at her face, immaculately clean nails gesturing at her.

“… But right they were! With a gaze that’s seen too many horrors and not enough happiness in this world.”

Sadness crept into his otherwise happy tone, a shift in the numerous lines and creases of his face until a look she could only guess was contemplation came over it. A smile surrounded by wrinkled grooves disappeared behind the rim of the cup of steaming sake. A bob of an adam’s apple and a smack of his lips later he seemed to shake himself from his thoughts and back into what it was he’d wanted. Turning with a speed mostly unheard of with someone so near the end of their life, he puttered away with a muttering that lingered on the edge of coherence, vague sounds and words punctuated with a barking laugh and peer over his hunched shoulder. “Come along!”

Tearing herself slowly away from the music, her footsteps came to follow the same path of his own. Still, the haunting melody followed though it had not moved, only muted for good as the door to the tavern he led her to closed firmly behind. Silence didn't quite seem to be his forte, her entrance sparking another tirade towards the barkeeper.

“You can offer her sake if you want but she’ll just sit there without touching it. Don’t bother... waste of good drink... Sit, sit.” A wild gesture of his hands, still including the cup, urged her to take the cushion opposite the one he was moving towards. A great expanse of hills, valleys and wagon ruts on well worn paths made up the geography of his face, more noticeable in the unnatural lights of the empty tavern.

As he exchanged greetings and general talk with the approaching tender, moderately calloused fingertips pulled the sheet of paper between them to an angle in which she could read the print. For the most part it was empty. No names took up the large amount of space allotted to the participants of the tournament and by the time she had finished reading over the different texts, he was looking at her again while he nursed a new cup of his favored drink.

“What will you do otherwise, sit on a hill in view of the place you would most rather be?” His sun kissed head shook at that notion, tossing out snowy locks from where they'd been trapped before in his pushed down hood. “He believed in you and yet here you are, wasting yourself..”

“He is...”

“.. still alive.” Her disbelieving, quizzical stare had his frail form leaning across the table where his arm could comfortably stretch and push his fingers into her chest. “As long as there are memories of people in there, they will be eternal.” Punctuated by a push into her armor, he gave her a smile that was reserved for the old when they looked upon the naive youth.

“I have no reason to join.”

Waving her words away into the air, he shook his wild mane of white hair and gestured again to the paper. “What you think now is not important... for if you do not have reasons now to join, either because you won’t tell me them or you do not even know yourself yet... you will later.”

“You will join. Why do you think you came down from your hillside? It’s why I’m here, why the music which first attracted you is here and it’s why you have not walked away from me. You know I’m right, even if you don’t know it."

“Fight. If not for the reasons which are common, then do it for understanding of people... do it for knowledge and friendship in the beginning... and maybe somewhere along the way you’ll find a reason all your own.”

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:29 pm 
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"Oh, how I know that look."

The gentle femininity of a voice soft from a recent sleep failed to rouse him from his slouched position at the table, bony fingertips continuing to persuade with guidance his short cup to turn. Its handmade ceramic edge caught upon the wood with a drawling scratch and stumble that spoke without words his thoughts.

Swaying gait stepped with certainty to his seat so that leather covered fingertips were able to lift the cover of her journal and sweep it up and shut. Crisp pages sighed back into their loose binding and the weight of her hand kept the well worn spine closed as it probably had been upon purchase. The journal which had been her's for years had spilt forth her inner most thoughts to his wandering gaze and whatever had come of it had dropped him into a quiet contemplation. Gathering it away from his seat she picked up the last piece which had fallen free from the back.

Quote:
Over land and through time we will go. Other dimensions and places... whole worlds apart from this one exist. I do not know what path we will have to take but you will not be at risk. I’ve torn from my writing the mentions of you and leave them here now. Read them, keep them, burn them. Do what you wish but with them I leave one promise, Stella.

I will come back for you.
Marick


Its worn creases folded back easily with a sway of her hand, the well read and old piece disappearing back into the book's pages. With a look reserved for those with a history of friendship, she gave a warning in a narrowed gaze and replaced it on the opposite side of the table from him. Time though kept her silent and urged her towards the door in all her armored glory, only persuaded to pause at the doorway when his voice broke the tension.

"Curiosity."

The single word pulled her framed face to peer over her shoulder with a look of expectation.

"How long has it been since he disappeared?"

"Five years."

"Don't you long for that again? You see that man walking across the path... you don't wish for something more with these people other than barely contained apathy?"

As her attention switched to the man walking, she remembered a long ago moment with Marick.

Quote:
'You see that man walking across the path?' Only the faintest hint of movement swept across her lips as her answer, but he knew what it was without questioning further. 'Ronin are alone, wandering throughout the world to search for a purpose they hold dear or because they have no purpose at all. You have a purpose, Sutera; you are here because of me...'


"You can't have that if you die pursuing a title or riches. The first round weeded out all those not worthy. This isn't going to be as easy as the first." The warning, the hinted at danger and thought that she might not be able to handle the second round sparked a fire within her heart and gaze, a barely contained smirk pulling back a corner of her mouth.

"Don't underestimate me."

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:35 pm 
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Amid the bustling activities which surrounded a city anxiously awaiting the beginnings of a tournament known far and wide came the hollow hoof beats of the beasts which bore their weight. The steady gait swayed her hips in the saddle, a rhythm given to them that was only interrupted when the pair had to slow for somebody else. The buildings could not place a shadow upon the afternoon road, neither in darkness nor a dampening of the general gaiety of it all. Throngs of people moved from one vendor to another, past doorways and into shops; where people stopped could be heard the familiar songs of stringed instruments playing their owners for every last bit of energy they had for an eager crowd.

"Lady Sasaki!"

It was with pinpoint accuracy she turned her head towards the voice, her prolonged pause in the street urging an orc and a pair of ssar to move around her and continue on their way. The scent of exotic spices trailed after the barrel the larger of the three carried easily upon his shoulder.

"These are for you."

'Sutera Angel I've heard, but Lady? Lady? Ha!'

A darkness rose above the opened collar at the boy's throat, coloring the face which sought to quickly defend himself. Into her gloved hands he placed a strip of leather rolled around itself and her unique shurikens, their place soon found against her thigh between the leather armor of her leggings and the thick, white material that was the skirt over them. 'It's what master calls the important women who come to buy...'

'...or maybe young, foolish boys with a crush..'

The wisened, old teacher's comment drowned out the excuse. A pointed look turned the words into quiet mutterings, the sounds of metal moving against one another drowning out anything else. Together throughout the entirety of the tournament Sutera and the old man had been, dancing along in their friendship and seemingly well matched attitudes. There was a knowledge behind his wrinkled face that gave him the ability to tug from her words and expressions where others constantly failed.

"Lady is usually for those of noble blood but Sutera works just as well."

An impish grin shone up at her among the dirt which coated the youth's face, one that gave away clearly the matter of his apprenticeship. The leather of his apron was thick, the scent of ash and metal having permeated his clothes and hair, hands still yet soft in the places where hard work would show in the coming years. Into them a coin was pressed and winsomely the warrior watched his frame wind through the crowds back to where the weaponsmith stood in a doorway. The dwarf's smile disappeared into his dark beard, acknowledging the bow of her head and shoulders with a salute that had his hand touching first his heart and then his brow.

'Friend of your's?' his question sounded dubious at best, which earned him a faint shadow of a smile with a raised brow. "I do on occasion make friends." Their banter dissolved into silence, looks thrown to one another speaking in ways that spoke of friendship and candor. It wasn't long before their meandering horses led them closer to the complex her third fight was taking place in, blond hair whispering over the heavy leather of her armor as they walked past groups of mages with better things to do than worry about the pair who didn't fit in visually.

"I couldn't give up this love that I have of what I do for the chance and risk that the love of people has." It was their familiar argument about the love of people and family to the one of fighting, his scowling visage constantly attempting to prod at the subject of settling down and stopping 'all of this nonsense before it kills you'.

"You must understand. Have you never loved? You look like you're eighty. Surely you've had a handful of wives by now."

'Ah, just one love.' Her expression softened a touch then as they came to a stop. There was a place for him to wait should he choose, though she didn't quite know what he intended to do while she was busy. For his age he was quite content causing trouble and mayhem where and whenever he could manage.

'A story for later.' A sweeping of her lashes came as she looked at the door she was to go through and then back to him. 'If it's as quick as your others you'll find me right here, shoo.' His hands pressed at the small of her back, urging her forward a couple steps before she paused just once more. His sigh was exasperated but playful, a hint of a smile wrinkling his eyes. 'And if I leave I'll let someone know where I've gone. I'm not going to disappear on you.'

'Good luck!'

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:36 pm 
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A gnarled hand gripped lightly the cane that was his constant companion, his arm extending to toss the length to her with ease.

“You've grown; I suspect your skill in equipment has passed a certain point now.”

Old bones creaked in the effort it took him to gracefully bring him down into a chair, brow coming together before lifting above eyes that spoke of so much. Like the familiar balance of weight which was required by all creatures to walk, there was something familiar about the weight distributed within his item. He said nothing else because he didn't need to; his eyes followed as her hands moved away from one another, thumbs catching the hidden latches to the answer he had given her.

Catches clicked and released, each hand gripping the end of the cane and pulling apart from one another. It was an elaborate way to hide weapons. The hollow metal tubing that had made up the middle clattered to the floor at her feet, hazel hues glued upon the pair of katana she held.

The pair was exquisite, as they’d always been. Marick’s blades were more like kin to her than anything else, fingers gliding across the bare hilts as a surprised gaze searched the blade past the guard for his name, which she found.

Despite the old man’s gaze glued to her face, she turned the unique pair within her hands so that they were blade to blade. Decorated sides came together to complete the dragon sprawled contentedly across the gleaming surface, the art engraved years before she’d come to know the man. It was a beautiful piece to fight with, any misuse of the weapon threatening to ruin it. He’d always seemed to be unconcerned with the pair though Stella recalled many nights watching him care for the metal, shining the dragon until it was perfect again. Its maw opened near the point, an eye staring back at the samurai in a familiar gaze until she let the blades move apart, the dragon split again into two.

“Who else can tell you of the time you fell in the lake when you were just learning to shunpo? Or where we buried Kemori after the fire? You refused to talk to me for weeks after that...”

His aged voice rambled away quietly, age spotted hand gesturing to her still form.

“And I bet I'm the only one who knows you had your Lieutenant Haori made into that skirt.”

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 4:18 pm 
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"Marick, I did..." Sutera's words stopped short, the door banging lightly against the wall as her beginning momentum carried it. Where excitement had laced her steps with quickness, it fled and was replaced with uncertainty. He lay there unmoving on his bed; his eyes were closed, form looking more sunken than she ever remembered. "...Marick?"

"I am old, Stella," he said with closed eyes, though what she heard was in that unsteady whisper was, "I am dying." She knew, but that blond hair shook against the leather of her armor in disbelief. She could feel it, despair and sadness softening her features as the success of the tournament vanished from her mind. Crossing the room, he looked up to her just as she crouched down at the edge of his bed.

"No. You can't."

His laughter was short and bittersweet, a rumble coming from his chest as a sad smile tugged at his wrinkled face. Boney fingers shakily reached out, coming away from her cheek glistening with wetness. Tears she chose to ignore. Young hands caught his own, sandwiching his unsteady one between them and holding it on top of her knees as she remained crouched beside him. "It's what you need. I knew when I first saw you... that there was something hidden... in there. You need closure. I did what I came here to do."

Sutera shook her head again, muted as she stared at him. While she had been out fighting, he had been dying a little bit more each battle. His words, they were so rehearsed. He'd known and had said nothing, just like he'd kept his identity from her until the very end.

The low rumble came from his chest again, a smile visible briefly before his frail body was overcome with heavy, shuddering coughs. Marick's short fingernails dug harshly into her hands but she did not pull away; she held on until he was done, his form collapsing weakly back onto the bed. His breathing was labored, his hand squeezing at her own. "You will become... one of the strongest women... in this land. But never forget... there is always something... someone... stronger."

His eyes stared into her own before she gave a small nod of understanding. Then they slipped closed and his breathing began to even out, the student left holding the hand of someone she'd loved, wondering if this was it.

It felt surreal and too quick. After having waited years for his return, Stella had not imagined this to be the ending. Marick seemed... almost welcoming of this turn of events, however. He did not fight it. Though she knew he was weak and old, she longed to be selfish, to keep him here and talk. A life together as she'd always wanted was out of the question, but it was still companionship. It was still a friend to have, one who knew what buttons to push and which to leave be.

"I don't want you to go. You can't."

"Shhh... " But it didn't matter, his sad smile said. He could. He had to. And he wanted to. She could see it happening and was hopeless to stop it. Still grasping his hand, Stella rest her cheek on top of the pile. It was what he wanted, and who was she to stop it? He had brought her so far these past months. If things were different, they could've been together. If time hadn't gotten in the way and messed up everything, it would've been as they'd initially thought their lives would be.

Silence had been the reigning power for quite some time, a soft sigh shifting past parted lips.

"I love you."

His hand squeezed her own lightly in response to the words they'd never spoken out loud to one another, but had known. "And I, you."

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Tue Oct 23, 2012 4:19 pm 
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How much time had passed, there was no telling. Thoughts had wandered; eyelids had grown heavy and closed. The weight of his outstretched arm upon her hand began to lighten, lifting her head enough that curious eyes could rest upon his form. For a second she could see through him and to the wrinkled bedspread beneath. For that moment it'd been as if he wasn't there, a blink correcting her vision though the initial scene tightened her muscles. His hand was cool, eyelids only half shut over emerald hues. Sutera reached out, the backs of tanned digits drifting over a wrinkled cheek before fingertips eased those faded eyes closed.

Gone.

Unnaturally his body began to fade away, bright blue orbs, reminding her of Vius' magic, coming into view instead. The blanket which had half covered him gently dropped, flat with nothing beneath. There was suddenly empty space between her hands where his had been, the feeling of emptiness prodding her into action as the samurai stood from her crouched position and backed away a handful of steps. The multitude of orbs flickered haphazardly up and about before dying away like the ashes of a bonfire.

Something inside her snapped, broken. It was hard to breathe. A tentative hand to her chest reassured her that it was nothing physical, though this realization only made her heart beat faster. Her body felt different, pain blossoming against her chest where her hand rest. Reassurance be damned. The pulse at her neck felt too big, too forceful as it roared in her ears, free hand clutching at the table as a chair knocked to the ground and her knees followed the motion until they hit the floor. The pain grew until it felt like a fire beneath her armor, the heat tracing slowly from her heart, across her chest and to her right shoulder where it crawled its way down her arm. The gray cloth of her shirt darkened with blood, urging her to forcefully tear the sleeve of fabric from her arm, tossing it to the ground as her eyes followed the path.

Colors like fresh ink were carved over tanned flesh as if another hand drew upon the canvas, the hues exquisite and unnatural as a body began to form. It was long and covered in scales, serpentine in nature as it curved this way and that. Unfinished, Stella watched and winced as claws dug themselves a home around her bicep, the body stretching along past her elbow. Able to imagine what was coming as it continued, the front set of claws joined the rear ones before a head began to form on the back of her hand. From what she could see and feel, the majority of her arm, shoulder and chest was covered in the foreign design of a dragon. She would’ve called it beautiful had the pain not demanded so much of her attention or if she had an idea of why it was there. But as her eyes locked onto the lifelike ones inked on her hand, an answer formed forcefully within her heart.

We are… a part of one another.

For the briefest second Sutera was reminded of how Marick could use his magic to form an attack with an ice dragon, but the answer she could feel was a resounding negative. Marick’s soul was gone. This was something else, something she knew from the power she used in battle.

Am I going crazy?

Only as much as you were before. You have known me without a name, without proof. I have been here, waiting.

Waiting for what?

For you.

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 Post subject: Re: Within the Current; Sutera Sasaki
PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 8:21 pm 
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And so it ends.

For years I have detailed the events of my life within these pages, kept track of the adventures I have made it through, and though I have not documented everything, I believe it to be an accurate summary of my life.

I have lost. I have been found. I have loved and been loved in return.

I have faught, bled and cried, but I have made it. I have made it not to where I wanted to be, but where I was meant to be. I have made it this far not because of the abilities I possess, but by the choices I have made. I have made it to a point where I realize that everything that has happened was important. Without Akumaru's friendship, I wouldn't have decided to become a samurai and stand up for myself. Without his betrayal and murder of Kemori, I wouldn't have fallen in love. And without Marick's unfortunate misstep with time, I wouldn't have found a reason to venture out into this world.

I have found myself unable to appreciate happiness, feelings and people mostly. Until now.

With Marick's passing I have come to the realization that I am more. I am more than a emotionless swordswoman looking for a place to belong. I can be more, but I must let go of the past and make a new future. There is no use in clinging to these pages of sadness any more, not when I can make different ones of something good. Marick took me when I was injured and empty but has released me as something more.

I have found the current of my life and have too long let it sweep me along absentmindedly. It's time to go and find my own way now. I will not dishonor his sacrifice.

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