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Cha'Valkar

A reluctant man at the head of the criminal underground.

0 · 690 views · located in The Horat-verse

a character in “The Great Guild Fortune (2014)”, as played by Rann

Description

"Why, hello there. Found yerself at the wrong side o' Gwan, I see."

Image
Name: Cha'Varkal
Sex: Male
Age: 31
Race: Gwanish Human


Physical Description: Varkal is lean and strongly built; with well defined muscles throughout his whole body. His hair is long and unkempt, giving him this untamed, wild appearance, well fitting for one of the top and most feared slavers of Gwan's underside. He's a dangerous kind of handsome, something hard to resist for most girls. Under the right light, his hazel eyes can look red.
Clothing: Varkal's primary is the deep red suit worn by his father during his prime. It consists with a red jacket, usually unzipped but with gold chains holding both hems somewhat together. Around his neck is a leather belt, buckled in the front. The tails of the jacket reach pretty far down, to around the backs of his knees, meeting with his black boots. He also has gloves to wear for when he uses his fire chi; although it's not very strong, the fire still burns his exposed skin.
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 174 lbs
Skin Colour: Pale
Hair Colour: Blonde
Eye Colour: Hazel

Occupation: Slaver
History/Bio: Valkar was born into a thriving criminal empire in Gwan, with his father the main head, and his mother almost abusive of him in order to train him into being the heir. At first, Valkar really wanted nothing to do with the world of crime, but the multiple beatings of his mother lead him to killing her in retaliation; self defence. That was the moment where his father ended up assassinated by one of the Seven Sons, and, well, Valkar was brutally forced into being the next head, or to face a life of slavery. So, he had no choice.

For his childhood, he's grown to have almost murderous anger towards woman, and takes it out by making the primary targets of his slave empire to be girls; using his forces to abduct them from nearly villages across the borders. At first, he wanted nothing to do with it in person, but when one of the girls kept on rebelling, his underlings insisted that there be some corrective action before selling her to one of the nobles. So, Valkar had his way until her will to fight was completely gone, and realized his inner primal urges. And to some extent, he hated himself for it, for giving in to his mother's abuse and becoming one of the most feared names in the northern parts of the world. But he knew that if he ever tried to escape, the underlings would take him in as a slave. And that's a fate worse than death.

Home Town: Lyropta. It's one of the larger cities in Gwan, and would be considered the Capital if not for the incredibly high crime and slavery rate. Almost half of the citizens are slaves; making it a city with high production rates, but since it's entirely slave labor, they can't really be counted as citizens of Gwan. It's in the heartlands of Gwanalai, and is one of the strongest defensive fronts they have.
Home Country: Kingdom of Gwan

Personality: Valkar is outwardly violent and charismatic, employing, rather than fear in his men, but inspiration to fight and kidnap. It's required, after all. Inside, however, is an insecure boy, not knowing where to turn, or where the escape is, and is looking for a way out of the whole business, not wanting to go one step too far and not be able to stop, one day.
Fears and Desires: His main fear is the fear of being made a slave, while he's also terrified of becoming a heartless monster. To a lesser degree Valkar fears the temptation of the female body, his empire's main focus being woman across the land. Related to that, one of his biggest desires is to be able to break the spirit of a haughty woman personally. His biggest desire of all, and the most honest one, is the desire to be free.

Equipment and Weapons: A large two-handed axe with a dual sided blade. It's heavy enough to crush bone and most other weapons.
Styles and Abilities: Killing Strokes- Valkar is rather skilled at using his axe for delivering killing strokes, cleaving straight through the enemy's bodies after breaking past their guard and aiming directly for vital areas, primarily the throat. It's fast, and it's cooly efficient. While it's weak to counters, Valkar usually has strong enough reflexes to not have to worry about it, and make a second blow in almost no time.
Chi and Augmentations: Valkar is a novice fire chi user. He has potential for it to grow, but he never really bothered. It's mainly used for burning paper, or maybe for use as a lamp. It has some usage in close combat if he can physically put his hand on his enemy.

So begins...

Cha'Valkar's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
Ah, Furoe. Capital of the Haraan Fields Province, of Yune. It was a pretty damn long way from Lyropta, but it had to have been worth it. One of the nobles here, Me-Hyung, well, he’d been pretty rude to him while visiting Lyropta on the way to the capital of Gwan to meet with the esteemed King. Why would a mere noble even have business with the King, who knew? But the man was more than haughty and lorded over his status while there, making Valkar do his bidding. Ironically, it was like a slave. He’d have his revenge though, because while the Me-Hyung was there, his daughter, Nee, had caught his eye. So, like any respectable slaver would do, he’d follow his prey, telling his second-in-command, a Gwanish named Moga, to be in charge until he got back with his new favorite plaything.

Nee herself was pretty cute. Short, maybe around fourteen years old; ripe years of development for a young girl, for sure. She was gentle and kind, and always was willing to lend an ear- not quite like the spoiled nobles Valkar was used to. And she almost always had an entourage of bodyguards; not giving him any opportunity to abduct her. Sure, he could always kill the guards, but that was troublesome, since then chances are, the Me-Hyung family would petition for a war against Gwan to get his precious daughter back. And a war, well, that’s bad for business, after all.

So of course it baffled him to be standing directly in front of her, in the middle of the marketplace; a slightly exasperated look on her small face. While she had snuck out of her wealthy noble home (“I’m only visiting the townsfolk, that’s all!”), she saw him, recognized him from the Gwan visit and called him over. Valkar couldn’t think of a stupider girl, naively waving at a slaver, as if they were friends. It’s ridiculous! But it’s not as if he had any opportunity to nab her and run, what with his clearly Gwanish appearance, and all the hustle and bustle of the town folks as they bought goods, or sold them.

“What are you doing here, sir?” Nee asked him; both sat at a table in front of some sort of meat-on-a-stick stall. “Thank you, again, for taking care of us during our time in Lyropta.”

She even spoke like a noble, with a light, sing-song voice; and was able to sound formal, polite, and friendly all at the same time. A true noblewoman, and it sickened the slaver man to think of it. Why was she born in such a good life and position, while he was beaten by his own mother as a child, to make a good head of the empire? It’s not as if he wanted to be in power- they’d have made him a slave if he didn’t agree! He ground his teeth as the girl smiled at him prettily.

“Just buying some wares they only sold here in Furoe.” He muttered gruffly. “Premium boar meat found nowhere else in the continent.”

And hell, sure she was a noble, but did she have to twinkle as she spoke? Did lights have to shine up and sparkle around her? Was it all really necessary?

“It’s one of our best comodies.” Nee laughed, a light, dancing laugh. “Comditties? C-“

“Commodities.” Valkar interrupted. “That’s how you say it, girl.”

Another laugh. Damnit.

“Sorry, sir!” She bowed her head deeply. “I- oh, I must have been frightfully embarrassing!”

“Not at all.” Valkar said, with a light frown. “You’re okay, Nee.”

Why was he even putting up with this, he had no idea. Sure, it’d be easier to kidnap the girl once she trusted him more, but listening and talking to the girl’s thoughts and worries about a noble life, it was so tiresome. Such a damn bother, and Valkar just wanted to take her and be done with it, screw the chance of a war happening. But, well, Valkar was usually a rational man, and he knew doing all this for his own personal vendetta was hardly rational. And it wasn’t like he was going to sell her to anyone, no, Valkar wanted Nee for himself. He just… it wouldn’t feel right to give his own, special target to anyone else. So you couldn’t even say this new endeavor was for business either. It was definitely personal.

“If Father’d let me…” The girl looked unsure, almost nervous for a moment, before continuing. “Um, I would very much like to be in town more. It is, I think, anyways, nicer than our mansion, with all those rules.”

Right after confessing that terrible sin of hers, she looked terrified, glanced around, and then slumped into her chair, as if she was apologizing and genuinely felt regret for feeling such foolish things. That display, even her reddened cheeks and pretty curls, it all served to make Valkar angrier. It was all he could to hold it in; a violent act to a young girl- especially that young girl could only serve to harm him in the end.

“Nee.” Valkar grunted. “I’ll make you some special Red Gwanish Tea, so cheer up.”

Valkar put the assortment of spices and herbs into his portable tea kettle, and filled it up with water. After that, he put his hands to the steel and activated his chi to the max- only enough to really make the tea hot enough to drink. Red Gwanish Tea is a great depressant; for relaxing in, but not enough to make you fall asleep. It’s intensely sharp and biting taste, as well as the slightly pungent taste made it, at least to critics, a pretty crude type of tea, but it was a national favorite amongst the Gwanish population. Or at least, the underbelly of the Gwanish population. Most girls would look at it doubtfully before excusing herselves, but Nee bravely took a huge sip, set it down and gulped, making a pleased noise at the tea.

“Thank you, sir.” Nee said gratefully, and took another sip. “I would love to visit Gwan again and taste this tea, sir.”

“Valkar, just call me Valkar.” He stood up and made to leave. “I’ll keep our meeting a secret, so you won’t get in trouble.” Valkar made a small wave, and the girl returned it, bowing deeply again. “Take care of yourself, Nee.”

I really need a stiff drink.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
Was there any reason why the man known as Cha'Valkar was lying on the floor, completely naked with a massive headache? He saw in the inn's bed, probably some cheap whore, looking battered and bruised after their night. Valkar scratched his head groggily, trying to recall the events of the night after he had his drinks, but he really couldn't remember a thing. His head swam as he tried, and decided that the events were pretty self-evident anyways. So the man, still hungover from the drinks, decided to get dressed. What else would you do when finding yourself naked on the floor, early in the morning? And it really was still early, the sky was still pretty dark out. He must have only just passed out, or something. It was shame too; he had planned on waiting the night until he got word from the messenger the goblin woman, Jensu, was meant to have sent him, updating him on her situation, with the slave cargo. It was pretty ironic, hiring a goblin to transport goblin slaves, but there was a noble in the Kingdom of Grey Lakes who really wanted a lot of goblins. He had no idea why, and only viscerally remembered the noble's name- Ohano. Haughty man, he was, and owned quite a bit of land. Were all the slaves just for tulling the fields? Not like it really mattered, in any case.

Once donning his red suit again, Valkar woke the woman up. She looked just as groggy as he did, and stared at him unknowingly. It took a while for her to realize her surroundings, and she blinked hard once or twice.

"Did we..."

Valkar nodded grimly with a shrug. "I think we did." He muttered to her, and then took out his rather large coin pouch. And it was really more coin than most people saw in their entire lifetimes, a fact that exonerated him just a bit. "How much coin-"

The woman shook her head, looking pale and sick at the same time. "No need, no need." She said, before clutching the blanket to her. "Let's... just hope we had a good time."

They both nodded then, and Valkar excused himself from the inn's room. When he saw the owner, who waved to him, mustachioed, the slaver lord asked him if there was any message for him. There was none, the inn's owner said helpfully, and so that was that. The goblin woman... did she, perhaps, make away with the slaves? She did seem a bit cocky during their brief conversation, but it never occured to him that perhaps the Captain would have freed the slaves, or even sold them for herself. The man let out a troubled sigh. Now he'd have to mobilize his men to look for more goblins, as well as check the river streams for a boat named the Milkweed. Valkar whistled, and a bird flew to him obediently.

"I'll tell Moga to move out." He murmured to himself, writing the note in a code that only he and Moga understood, before letting the pigeon fly. It was then when he heard the high voice beside him, a voice he really didn't expect to hear.

"We have great postal services, sir." Nee said brightly, with a knowing smile. "I'm sure the post offices would love any extra coin you could offer, sir."

Great, she was already becoming a walking advertisement. It might have just been part of her job though, seeing as she was a daughter of the richest noble in the area. Charm people into trying to use up their cash to stimulate the economy. Valkar chuckled a little at the thought; the little Nee was definitely smarter than she let on, and strangely enough, that small fact pleased him. Yes, the young woman was already a manipulator. And sure enough, Valkar smelt the subtle different scent of the flowers that filled the city of Furoe, swallowing him in a calm feeling. His headache had all but disappeared, too. The girl really was pretty shrewd to use her chi like that. Somewhere between irritated and pleased, Valkar scratched at his hair.

"My pigeon needed the exercise." He said easily to the girl. "Why you still up, Nee? Shouldn't you be at the mansion?"

The girl placed a finger on Valkar's mouth- a daring feat most men were even afraid to do. Who, exactly, was she?

"I snuck out again." She said in a refined voice. "There isn't anything to do at the mansion. I prefer talking to you, sir."

Fighting to keep a scowl on his face, Valkar sighed.

"Like I said before, just call me Valkar."

They stood there in silence, overlooking the town from their little perch, above the main downtown. There was even a slightly rusted railing to lean on. It was an easy silence, and it felt as if the two people there were old friends. The slaver lord, once again, had to remind himself that this suffering and indignation was only for until he found an opportunity to strike. Even now, he sensed guards, just out of sight, watching the pair carefully.

"Valkar." Nee broke the silence, and leaned her head into the man's waist. "So soon, and my Father is already making preparations to travel to Hanshan." She laughed, a small tinkling laugh. "You know where that is? It's just north-west of Jiefong. We have business there, and... I'd like to invite you along. You could be a bodyguard, of sorts, Valkar, and we could use you."

Now, this was interesting. Valkar put himself into deep thought. While being a bodyguard for her would certainly give a lot of opportunities, her kidnap would definitely place him as the number one suspect for the crime. And if that happened, even if he smuggled her past the borders, there was always the risk of a war to be fought to get her back. Or maybe, and this was more troubling- Ying Me-Hyung might just try to hire the Seven Sons to take him out. Like father, like son, right? It wouldn't be an ironic demise at all.

So perhaps he had to take a different angle on this. He knew the trajectory, where they were going. There was a small pond along the route there, close to where he imagined they'd take a bit of a pitstop. And Nee would probably take the chance to wander off and play in that pond, right? Or perhaps to just be one with nature. That would be his chance, if he stalked the caravan well enough. He could get in, nab the girl, get out, and no one'd be the wiser.

He let his smile show.

"You're a friend, to me, Valkar." The girl said coaxingly. "The trip will be pretty boring... I'd love to have a bodyguard I could actually just talk to."

But he shook his head apologetically.

"Sorry, Nee." He shrugged. "I have to leave soon, back to Gwanalai. Otherwise, I'd take you up on your offer."

Her face was downcast.

"Will you come visit again?"

"Sure." Valkar grunted, not looking at his prey. "Definitely."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
It was almost midday. The young noble girl, and the slaver lord had the company of each other since early morning; and yet the guards were still prowling just out of sight, and the marketplace was beginning it's hustle and bustle once again, shopkeepers coming to their stalls, toting the goods that they had available. There was even a map salesman and his son, a young handsome and somewhat scarred man, taking up their positions with scrubbed knees and eager faces. And to keep things civil and in order, Valkar watched as Nee made little, subtle movements with her hands to spread the calming pheromones. It really was a marvel... and that chi of hers would be pretty useful for his slave trade; as long as he planted flowers in his wide array of safe houses, and his underworld networks. A slave to calm the slaves. It was poetic, and thinking of it pleased the man in red. He patted her head warmly, and she made a little 'uppft!' noise of indignation, but didn't further resist.

"You'll make a good noblewoman one day." He muttered. "Keep it up, Nee."

She beamed at him; eyes sparkling. "I'll do my best! Maybe, perhaps by then, you'll live here?"

Valkar thought about it a bit. Sure, he got along with the girl splendidly, and if he wanted, he probably could live a good life here... but that was without putting into consideration his slave empire in Gwanalai. Already, rival slaver gangs were creeping up on him, trying to challenge his chunk of territory, and perhaps they'd take the chance to take him out while he wasn't protected by Moga and the others. And not to mention, Moga would lead the people of power in his empire to go after him and enslave him, specifically. And if there was anything, Valkar did not want to be enslaved. Better for it to be the girl.

Seeing the somewhat conflicted face Valkar made, Nee smiled a little inside, and raising an eyebrow cutely, she continued her offer. "We've got guards here... we can even hire a strong guild." She said wantonly. "Or the Seven Sons. You don't have to keep slaving people, Valkar."

The man froze, suddenly. How did she know about his work? Did she, during their time, snoop in places she shouldn't have, or maybe saw glimpses of the cages and chains in his own private room at the Hotel in Lyropta? Before he could talk, though, Nee shushed him quickly, a finger to his mouth gently.

"Not so loud, sir." She smiled. "My bodyguards are most likely listening in right now. Speak quietly, okay?"

Good point. The man took a few deep breaths, and then gave her a questioning look. "How did you find out?"

"I'm pretty good at slipping under people's radars." She replied sweetly. "I don't really try so hard here, but if I wanted to, avoiding the guards would be simple. You tricked that goblin captain, didn't you? With the cargo?"

There wasn't much to do but nod. She already knew the answer, regardless.

"A normal person would be afraid of you." She hugged herself and laughed lightly. "But, I believe that you aren't a bad person, Valkar. You might try to kidnap me, and you would probably succeed... but you wouldn't harm me. And just in case.... I'm offering you a better life, since a man like you, you wouldn't turn to something like slavery because you wanted to do it."

This time she looked pleadingly into his eyes.

"Please reconsider my offer. Forget about your empire; about everything, and become my personal bodyguard. Stand at my side, Valkar."

It was tempting. Oh, so tempting. All he had to do was kneel down and swear fealty to her, and break off all connections with his slave trade in Gwanalai. Change his name, cut his long hair; wear a different suit. Maybe they wouldn't recognize him. Hide his tattoo, as well. He looked at this possible future with longing; truly not wanting to continue ruining lives like he had. But then he thought about his mother, and the things... the things she had done to him. And he realized that someone like him, all they could do was ruin people. He was born to be a slaver; no choice in the matter. It was all he was for. And, roughly five hours later, after Nee cheerfully bid him farewell, he was surely enough, stalking the caravan to Hanshan. And, as she said right into his ear in a careful whisper, before leaving; "I know you'll be following us, so please go easy on my guards. See you soon, Valkar..."

He could see the Comrade Mountains in the distance, surrounded with a light ring of fog at the very tips. What kind of people lived there, he wondered? What kind of lives did they lead? Were they given the choice of how to conduct their lives? Could they choose to be moral, good people, like Valkar so badly wanted to be? Could they even be happy, and protect the people dear to him? And Nee, Valkar realized dully, was dear to him. The times he spent just talking with her were some of the happiest moments of his life; even if she was a haughty woman, just like the others he brutalized before selling off. And she was much more intelligent than she let herself on to be. He was just out of sight of the caravan, and the body of water that could either be a lake or a pond wasn't too far off. Valkar fingered his axe with a bitter frown. It was too late to consider his own feelings; all he had to do was take the girl and return home. Nothing else mattered. He'd hurt her and keep her as his own; he'd prove that he'd do her harm, that she was an idiot to have put so much faith in his good heart. Valkar wouldn't let her underestimate him. That was an insult as bad as any. But the fact remained, that he had been outwitted by a fourteen year old girl. The sun was high up in the air, scorching with the noon summer heat.

He'd break that spirit of hers. He'd ruin that bright smile, those sparkling eyes, and with her chi, his work as a slaver lord would be much easier. The slaves would be more easily controlled because the pheromones would pacify them, and he wouldn't have to resort to letting his men beat and torture them. With the slaves perfectly healthy; lacking even a single mark, the prices would skyrocket, and he'd have an advantage over the competing slave markets. And, well, then he could wage his underground war and eventually gain a monopoly on the Gwanalai slave trade. And, just in case, the pheromones would also calm his men, lowering the chance of a revolt against his leadership. Valkar grinned darkly to himself. This girl was the key to his victory. She had to be. With a slightly hurried step, Valkar headed into the pond, ready to snatch the girl.

What he didn't expect to see was the familiar deep indigo hued skin of an old... acquaintance. Amanhã Tiamat. He hadn't seen her in the longest time... a few years ago was their last meeting, where he had targeted her. It was a brutal campaign, throughout the Kingdom of Grey Lake, in trying to beat down and force the woman into being his slave. He remembered almost salivating at the thought of breaking her; but of course, he lost almost a third of his men at the time, all of which either were brutally slaughtered by the half-Ashura, or deserted out of fear of facing her. It wasn't until one stormy night, where he met her personally, and the two fought long and hard, only ending with a very slight loss on Valkar's part, and he managed to escape with his life at the last second, using his chi to burn her skin before running. How... problematic, it was, to be seeing her again. And the girl, Nee, she was nowhere to be seen. Did Tiamat kill her? No, Nee was too sharp to just run into something as large and threatening as Tiamat. If anything, she was hiding in the shrubbery, watching carefully the situation and trying to evaluate the chance of getting out unseen. And sure enough, when Valkar approached the half-Ashura, calling out her name, he heard a very faint rustle as Nee took her chance to return to the caravan.

"Fancy meeting you again." Valkar said calmly to his old enemy, and amiably patted her on the arm. He knew there was a very small chance of taking her as a slave; and now, he respected her too much to even bother trying. Instead, he knew this was his best opportunity. Use Amanhã to attack the caravan directly; that way it wouldn't incite a possible war against Gwan. So he shuffled over a rather large pouch of coins to her, with a little inviting smile.

"Hunting down a girl, in that caravan just now. I think you'd be perfect for killing those guards of hers, Tiamat. What do you say?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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It seemed Amanhã was not to have the little pond all to herself.

She now sat along the banks of the diminutive body of water, her helmet lying beside her on the ground: she'd slapped some water onto her face, but was now simply resting a bit, revelling in the silence and the tranquillity of what should have been a serene scene of nature unpolluted by the presence of others. Unfortunately, she'd espied a caravan not far from the pond-- of what purpose or allegiance, she wasn't sure, though she certainly was of no mind to give a damn. Every time the voices from the caravan drifted up toward her resting place and jarred her from her repose, Amanhã narrowly suppressed the honest urge to venture down and strangle every single living thing on that caravan. In fact, perhaps she should not have even bothered attempting to resist the compulsion-- money or no money, it would at least have provided a degree of relief.

They would merit nothing less, after all, if they were unable to rebuff me to begin wi--

Amanhã was on her feet and the longsword at her side drawn in an instant: something in the glade surrounding the pond had stirred. She turned, and found herself face to face with a familiar figure emerging from the trees. Cha'Valkar-- Gwanish slaver and crime lord. He had always struck Amanhã a peculiar specimen, bearing some strange vehemence towards females that manifested in his slaving tendencies-- but then, this was a baffling tendency she'd also observed in the Yune Empire, where the subjugation of females was also an ingrained tendency in the noble classes. Unusual-- but then, it had nothing to do with her. The second it did, she was having none of it.

Cha'Valkar had discovered that when he'd attempted to capture Amanhã for his slave ring, only to promptly lose every warrior he'd sent after her, and after being forced to retreat in personal combat, he'd given up. Since then, they'd kept their distance, though indirect contact was inevitable-- Cha'Valkar was deeply connected in the slaving business in Gwanalai, and Amanhã frequently did jobs for Gwanish slavers. However, she'd gathered in that time that Cha'Valkar was no longer willing to pursue the already nonexistent possibility of managing to enslave her, and that was probably the sole reason she didn't immediately launch the first attack in what would, in that case, have almost certainly been the impending duel.

But she didn't drop her guard. She wasn't an idiot.

"Amanhã Tiamat," the Gwanish slaver called out, approaching the guarded bounty hunter placidly. "Fancy meeting you again." Amanhã raised an eyebrow-- indeed, for what purpose was Cha'Valkar here of all places, at this little pond where Amanhã herself just happened to have been resting at? It was suspicious, to be sure, but on the other hand, that caravan down the hill... its affluence implied perhaps it was bearing nobility. And if it was female nobility, Amanhã imagined that was just cause for Cha'Valkar to be seeking it out. Why personally, she could not speculate, but it was hardly her business to give a damn, was it?

Apparently, Cha'Valkar thought it was. He produced a rather heavy-looking pouch, its distinctive jingle indicating the presence of coins, and shuffled it over to her with a smile. "Hunting down a girl, in that caravan just now. I think you'd be perfect for killing those guards of hers, Tiamat. What do you say?"

Amanhã said nothing. She simply took the pouch, opened it up, reached in, and withdrew a couple of the coins, gazing them over, examining them, weighing the pouch in her hand to judge the worth of its content. Then she swiftly tied it to her belt, picked up her helmet, donned it, and wordlessly left.







Down in the caravan, the guards refused to loll about in idyllic repose-- they were protecting a noble, after all, and constant vigilance was necessary. Even here, in a region that had not been known for any particular bandit activity in nearly twenty years, they were on alert, patrolling about the caravan, ever watchful for signs of a threat to their quarry.

The possibility of bandits, or slavers, was always to be expected. The possibility of an eight foot four half-Ashuran ambushing them in broad daylight was generally less expected.

The caravan lay at the bottom of a hill of low-grown grass, a scenario which offered no real opportunity to conceal oneself, to attempt to approach the objective in a stealthy, subtle manner. Therefore, Amanhã didn't bother. She was already surging halfway down the hill by the time the guards saw a massive suit of armour hurtling down toward them, and by the time they began their responce, veritably sluggish in comparison, she was already upon them. "Get the third wagon moving!" one of the imbeciles screamed, just before Amanhã barrelled into him, slamming him aside with an effortless motion of her shoulder. Pretty obviously, the girl the slaver wanted was in the third wagon, the last in the column: preventing any chance of it escaping was as straightforward as killing the two horses that would have borne the wagon and its inhabitant to safety.

The guards were already converging on her as that was done, but they stood as little chance against the bounty hunter as had the tengu attackers at Poyo mere days ago: that same bloodthirst, that same frenzy of violence, had overtaken her, and the guards were to be the outlet of days of discontent and bitter vehemence. It was therefore over in a matter of a minute-- their cautious, defensive posture simply battered into defeat by the massive mercenary's potent wrath, leaving behind broken and battered carcasses lying strewn about the base of the hill.

The other wagons were long gone-- their horses had been startled into flight, leaving the third standing alone amidst the carnage. Amanhã was breathing hard, taking a brief moment to gather her bearings and her composure, before she approached it silently, finding it deathly quiet. She perceived at first no sound emerging from the covered wagon, the drapes of its entrance closed to the outside world-- not until Amanhã's boot crunched against some loose leaves from the trees up above the hill, eliciting a startled whimper of fear within the wagon.

The bounty hunter's hand darted past the curtains, reached into the wagon, grabbed the girl within, and yanked her out, hurling her to the ground. Indeed-- a child of noble stock, you could tell by her helpless, utterly imbecilic terror, her worthless impotence, her refusal to even really put up any fight.

Those who refuse to fight, even if futilely, for their life or their freedom, deserve neither.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
The moment the half-Ashura barrelled herself down the hill, veritably like a cannon, except somehow even more destructive than the ball that fired from one, Valkar knew the whole thing would be settled rather quickly. The guards, tried as they might, didn’t stand a chance; their blood splattering against the once green grass. Valkar couldn’t blame them, he himself had faced Amanhã, and he knew exactly what she was capable of. He watched carefully, with mild interest at the battle- two of the wagons had already sped off, and he had a feeling Me-Hyung himself had gotten out. Valkar was just out of sight- and for sure, this wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass. Now, Nee must have been terrified- she was expecting him to attack, not this monstrous stranger. Valkar buried deep within him the faint guild that threatened to rise up. And he watched, outwardly impassive, as the warrior yanked the girl out, who was all but trembling in her terror, and slammed her into the ground. It was insane how many men could die; and not just weaklings, but men with serviceable training, fell to Amanhã. Valkar subtly noticed that her footwork had gotten quicker and more agile since he’d seen her last. She’d never be a gymnast, or as nimble as some he’s fought, but Amanhã somehow managed to cover her only glaring weakness, and was able to keep up with most she’d have to face. Predictably, she’d become an even bigger threat.

Valkar shrugged. At least the girl was his now, to do as he wanted… although he wasn’t particularly thrilled at the idea of returning to Gwan just yet. He’d have return eventually, but for now, he wanted some time with Nee. And, strangely enough, he wasn’t averse to learning more about Amanhã… the giantess fascinated him in strange ways. He’d invite her out for drinks; once he’d gotten a collar and leash onto Nee, of course.

When Tiamat returned to him at the pond, carrying Nee in a hard grip, Valkar grinned, holding the chosen collar In his two hands, making sure the noble girl had a good view of it before inevitably having to wear it. She instinctively touched her slender throat, and gulped.

“As expected. Nice work, Tiamat.” He said to her, before quickly snapping a dark red leather collar onto Nee, and grasped the chain carefully. “And you’re mine, Nee. You probably predicted the outcome already; just not the means to it, I bet.” It looked suitable for the girl; humiliating and heavy enough to be a permanent reminder of her new status until her eventual death. To be sure she couldn’t ever remove it, Valkar held the key in his hand and, using his chi, melted the tip, molten metal falling to the grassy ground.

He felt vindictive pleasure at yanking the chain as hard as he could, forcing Nee face first onto the groud. Still, her whimpering had stopped, and her eyes looked wide, alert, and aware. Probably looking for the first chance she could get to try to talk Valkar out of it. The slaver lord knew for sure, though, that there was no way he’d turn back, and serve the girl. The moment he’d seen and hired Tiamat was the defining moment.

Then he kicked the girl in the stomach, leaving her form shaking as she coughed violently, still not looking up at her new Master. Valkar, with perverse glee, picked her up, forced her to look straight into his eyes, and he kneed her in the same spot, making her buckle over with the pain. She still refused to cry out or beg- really, she was trying as hard as possible to just not react to anything. It was cute; her little version of defiance.

“You had a mouthful to say, back in Furoe.” He murmured, forcing her up to look into his eyes again. And yes, tears were threatening to form in her large and clear eyes. “Nice and silent now, how wom- human woman should be.” He corrected himself quickly- although Amanhã was pretty silent most of the time, he didn’t want to inadvertently gain her ire by implying he wanted her subjugated anymore. Because in all honesty, he didn’t. She was a fellow warrior.

Seeing Nee moving her hands as best she could, and feeling the same calm feeling start to come over him, he forcefully grabbed her by the wrists and yanked them back, almost to the point of breaking. She looked stricken, and yet eerily calm at the same time as she mumbled something.

“What?” Valkar demanded. “Say it again, slave.”

“Once you realize what you really want, Valkar…” She coughed again, and looked miserably up at him. “You’ll do the right thing then. I know it.”

He hit her again, harder, and this time she didn’t have enough strength or energy left to pull herself back up on her own; needing Valkar to basically dag her by the collar as he walked to Tiamat.

“Why not go for, who knows, drinks or something, Tiamat?” He asked her, dangling a few of his plentiful coins under her nose. “We’re old… friends, are we not? I’ll treat. There’s this bar in Hanshan we could visit; I know the bartender.”

Why do I want to spend time with Amanhã so badly? I'm not in want of company, with Nee here....

With a slight shrug, he turned to his new slave, he yanked the collar. “Beg her to come, slave.” When she stayed silent, and avoided looking at anything, he yanked it even harder, and pushed on her back to make her fall to her knees. “I said beg.”

“Only if you call me Nee again.”

Striking the girl again, he turned back to Tiamat, shrugging. “You probably don’t care too much about pleasantries, anyways.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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The Assorted Escapades of Valkar, Amanhã, and Slavey Thing



If anything, Hanshan was a little like that backwater town, Poyo. Small, and even built somewhat the same way. It’s strange in that it seems to attract gwanish immigrants; with the brother of the mayor here being the bartender of the Osakedaiyo, the best and only bar in the whole town. The bouncer eyed Nee a little strangely, but after a timely extra coins being flipped towards him from the crime lord, the three were allowed to smell the smell of cheap and ruddy liquor. They, of course, had walked the whole way, and the noble girl’s feet were blistered and swollen, as she had hardly exercised before in her life. Valkar was keenly aware of how memorable the trio was, but there wasn’t really anything to do about it. Along the way, he’d received word from Moga- apparently the Milkweed was spotted farther south, so it would bring them past Jiefong, to confirm the Jensu situation, as well as for whatever Tiamat’s job was. It was convenient that they travel together; more safety in numbers, after all.

“Zan.” Valkar nodded his head at the thin and wispy gwanish man cleaning a few cups with a rag. The man, Zan, nodded with a definitive tooth-lacking smile, and poured a strange concoction into it, before lightly sliding across the wooden counter; not even batting an eye at the newest slave to Valkar’s collection.

“Order whatever you want.” He said, forcing Nee down on all fours and using her as a footrest. The girl shot him a somewhat pleading look, but still stayed stubbornly silent, and Valkar did his best to ignore the doubts inside. Instead, he turned to the enigmatic half-ashura across from him, gesturing at her with a neutral look on his face. “Amanhã, how've you been the past few years? Assuming you talk more now, I mean."




Needless to say, theirs was not a journey of plentiful conversation.

In obdurate silence, the three had marched on toward Hanshan-- Amanhã, no stranger to travelling the breadth of the land on foot, was no worse for wear by the time they arrived, but the imbecilic noble girl was a constant burden, her bleeding feet, the skin raw and inflamed, failing to bear her the distance without necessary physical persuasion from the slaver. Then again, the bounty hunter supposed she was accustomed to being ferried about in wagons with her every need catered to-- a pathetic existence, and one that deserved to be so unceremoniously shattered. Nobles, in Amanhã's experience, all too often proved ineffectual, impotent, vain-- witless fools dependent on the services of others, devoid of any real power except for that which their coin could buy. And certainly, Amanhã wasn't complaining: after all, much of her own coin was provided by useless nobles who couldn't do what they needed done themselves. But her wealthiest of employers would never earn so much as a shred of whatever semblance of respect Amanhã Tiamat had to give others.

They entered the bar at Hanshan, a motley trio that drew heads throughout the establishment-- a massive half-Ashuran who had to practically go prone to get through the door, a notorious Gwanish slaver, and a miserable-looking little runt in chains. The brat was glancing from side to side, as though hoping for somebody to end what had quickly become a wide-awake nightmare, but neither Amanhã nor Cha'Valkar so much as blinked as they walked past the throes of gawking regulars and took their seats at the bar itself. "Order whatever you want," the slaver directed at Amanhã as he took his own drink, before turning toward the bounty hunter. "Amanhã, how've you been the past few years? Assuming you talk more, I mean."

Amanhã's absolute disregard of Cha'Valkar's query was answer enough as the bartender turned toward her as well. "Kakan Wellspring," she grunted at the man, who returned the request with a raised brow. His apprehension was merited-- it wasn't that Kakan Wellspring was a particularly potent alcohol (though it was also nothing for a goblin to start chugging). Kakan Wellspring was a liquor almost legendary for being universally the foulest concoction ever devised-- anybody unfortunate or stupid enough to have tasted but a drop compared the drink to the taste of fire oni faeces boiled in goblin urine. Discounting the question of why so many people were acquainted with the taste of fire oni faeces boiled in goblin urine, Amanhã herself had found the drink not only hardly so repulsive as that, but quite delectable-- she supposed she could only count herself fortunate that enough people were foolish enough to order the drink that most bars maintained a small stock of it.

The bounty hunter took the glass of ink-black alcohol passed to her shortly thereafter, a nauseating smell emerging from it, and downed a healthy gulp of it, enjoying the taste maligned by so many burn down her throat.



Kakan Wellspring. Valkar remembered trying a dose of that once, years ago back in Gwanalai, and it was possibly the worst thing he had ever tried to drink. It was almost a marvel when he saw the half-ashura slurping down a large amount in one swallow, not even phased by the intensely strong taste. No, instead, Tiamat looked to be enjoying it. And, as usual, it was obvious that Tiamat was still just as antisocial and inhuman as she once was- oer perhaps even moreso, if that's even possible. With a little shrug out of annoyance and boredom, Valkar pressed his feet down with some force until he heard something between a squeak and a grunt from Nee; clearly struggling to hold both herself and the feet of her Master up.

"Same as always, huh." Valkar murmured, and called Van up for some of his favorite Red Gwanish Tea- for some reason, Van could make it with that extra hint of tanginess that Valkar's lacked, no matter how many times he tried to replicate it. It was frustrating; and it was also quite well known that Van could out-liquour anyone this side of Yune. He confidently juggled the herbs and spices and dished them into the hot water before sliding it with suave skill to the slave lord. Nee was struggling even more now.

"Slave." He said in a nonchalant voice. "Do you want some of this?"

It was almost imperceptible, but he could swear her head nodded just a tad.

"Too bad, it's mine."

With a villified chuckle, he took a healthy sip, and turned to Tiamat again.

"Where you headed now, then? I'm going south more, find out what happened to the cargo I gave to someone. I probably shouldn't have. If you're also going south, we could accompany each other for a bit longer."



Amanhã more or less disregarded Cha'Valkar as he went about degrading his slave-- she had little respect for those who enabled themselves to be taken and disparaged in such a manner, but she certainly didn't have any more respect for those who confused that ability with actual power. Which was strange-- with martial skills of the magnitude he wielded, Cha'Valkar could have commanded genuine respect in a field that involved true power. Mercenary work, bounty hunting-- perhaps even banditry, if he avoided falling in with the kind of lowlife, unambitious degenerates that gloried in preying upon witless, hapless buffoons stupid enough to traverse the open roads without some degree of protection. Something of that nature. And yet he opted for a profession occupied with lording over the weak and the worthless-- it was a waste of such martial potency, but then, it was also nothing Amanhã needed to be concerned with.

She continued to down prodigious quantities of Kakan Wellspring, and indulged freely in refills, given it wasn't on her tab to pay for (not that the bars ever really charged very much for the putrid liquor). At some point, Cha'Valkar ceased in tormenting his slave, and turned toward Amanhã once more, evidently deciding it was more prudent to torment her instead.

"Where are you headed now, then?" he inquired of her. "I'm going south more, find out what happened to the cargo I gave to someone. I probably shouldn't have. If you're also going south, we could accompany each other for a bit longer."

The single syllable responce was already on Amanhã's tongue-- No. Sufficient to bury any discussion of accompaniment for good-- after all, for what conceivable reason would Amanhã ever feel it pertinent to have the accompaniment of other living things if it wasn't absolutely necessary? And yet, when she ventured to say it... somehow, there was hesitation. Her brow furrowed briefly. I suspect somehow that maybe I wouldn't mind the company so much... but then, why wouldn't I? When have I ever opted for the company of others over solitude?

That was not something that had been the case in almost thirty years.

Silently, without delivering a responce, Amanhã scowled slightly, and drowned away those vexing thoughts in Kakan Wellspring.




Once again, there was no real answer. However, the old Amanhã would have said no immediately, maybe after punching him in the throat. Trying to, at least, and Valkar’d probably just barely dodge it. He felt her gaze on him, and gazed back, appraising her. Stronger than last time, for sure. And faster, as previously noted. Valkar wondered bitterly if he’d ever really match up to the half-Ashura. Sure, he’d improved as well, with better precision, control, and strength, but he knew that if they had it out, the result would be the same as it was last time. He had to get stronger… or find Tiamat’s weakness; otherwise there would always be the threat of the half-ashura being hired by the competing slaver empires. He didn’t want another full-scale conflict with her again, not as an enemy.

“I’ll pay for the food, water, doesn’t matter.” He sounded at least a little self pleased, not just slightly off put by the incredibly one-sided conversation. Stretching his arms, and suddenly sensing hostility somewhere near, his eyes flickered to Amanhã, knowing she probably had sensed the same time. So Valkar bodily lifted his slave from the ground after getting up, knowing she’d probably not be able to keep up.

“Should get going.” He murmured, not wanting to tip off whoever was watching them that he’d noticed- if he was lucky, they’d be able to get away without conflict. “I’ll carry you, Ne-, slave. Just this once.”

A strange calming sensation overcame pretty much everyone within the bar, and the noble girl felt the slightest ray of hope.




Cha'Valkar did not pursue the subject, and instead silently stared at her-- Amanhã perceived the gaze and returned it callously, one brow raised in a minuscule motion. He seemed to be appraising her somehow-- then again, she could think of no other reason to sit there staring off at her for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Scowling disdainfully, she turned away from the slaver and finished off her glass of Kakan Wellspring.

She had just been about to shove the glass back toward the bartender for another refill when she perceived it-- now, Amanhã, needless to say, had no innate capacity for the manipulation of chi, and held all those who indulged in such trickery in a regard so low as to be almost as worthless as the imbecilic former noble who now served as nothing more than Cha'Valkar's footstool. However, after twenty years in this business, even a callous freak with less understanding of living emotion than a mossy boulder could all but feel when hostile intent was in the air. The slaver too had noticed it, it seemed-- he lifted the slave into his arms (How unusually charitable.) and murmured under his breath, "Should get going."

Amanhã was in agreement. For her own part, she had no interest in an altercation that would result in no tangible pay off for her at this point... and that wasn't even taking into account the strange sudden sense of... well, she felt something, some unidentifiable sensation, wash over her. The haze in her skull, so ever-present as to be more or less unworthy of note by this point, seemed to abate, replaced with that bizarre, unknown feeling she couldn't quite put her finger on.

The fact that it so stubbornly evaded definition should have infuriated her, except it didn't.

And that fact did kinda infuriate her.



Amanhã was the first one to actually leave the bar, wordless, and not making eye contact with anyone at all. Was that the giantess’ way of being stealthy? Valkar shot Zan a glance, and flipped a few coins into the air, before tossing them at him. “Keep the change.” Valkar grumbled. “I’ll see you later some time.” Gripping the statuesque girl like a sack of potatoes, Valkar also made to exit the raunchy old bar, where had had made some of his very first connections.

“Down there.” Nee whispered in a hushed voice, as she pointed very vaguely down an alleyway, dark and somewhat menacing as homeless people starving were left there, suffering from the opulence of the Emperor’s Day festival a few days back. It was really ridiculous.. at least the King of Gwan never did things like that. The most festive activity, really, was the legal slave auctions they held once a year. It was always grand… and yet, disturbing, to Valkar. He preferred to keep his business underground. “It’s a blind spot in their formation. Hire the peasants to, uhm, slow down the guards, just in case, by begging them for food, Valkar.”

Why was she helping him? Didn’t the girl want to be freed? And, from what Valkar could tell, the advice was sound. Wherever the guards were watching from, it didn’t seem like they’d be able to easily follow them though there without being slowed down. So, with a curt nod, Valkar did just as he was told, although his scowl was even more obvious than before.

Things sort of continued like that, weaving through the small town, mostly lead by Nee’s strangely calm urgencies, and they made it to the outskirts of the southern fence, ready to continue on their individual quests. And yet, Valkar still had no idea why the girl helped them get out without a fight; why she was actually putting up with the things he did. Was she underestimating him again? His fist clenched as he thought of it, and of how he’d punish her for it later, in private.

Though, more importantly, there was Tiamat. “Guess we’re doomed to travel together.” He said calmly, noting that his slave had gone back to her unresponsive game once again. Gotta get in contact with Moga again soon, if he really saw the Milkweed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Terra Himene Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Nulix
"True, she looks pretty mucked up," Yuwen commented as he stepped through the grass. A few feet further the greenery washed up into the shore of a massive Rann river. "Hey listen, don't back up further!" Yuwen called, reaching out to the teenage girl. "The grass has weeds and wet-spots, you can trip and get tangled under the water! You can come with us but, who are you?"

Suddenly a blood curdling scream echoed from before them. Everyone within the mile paused what they were doing at the sound, including Terra, who turned left toward the source. Yuwen took the opportunity to bend and grab her, quickly pulling her away from the waters and into his arms. The guild leader let out a slight chuckle as he released his hold. "Don't worry kid," Yuwen said to the teenage girl. "You'll be fine. My names Yuwen Fortune, this is my guild." He began to walk forward, knocking on the front wagon's side as he did. "Alright gang, posse up!" He called. "Let's see what this screaming is about."

It didn't take him long, only about four steps past Master Wang Chang to see a cross-roads ahead. A noble-couple surrounded by Beast-men guards stood, the woman crying into the man's arms, as before them the ground was red with blood and bandits of all sorts lay disembodied. "Of course," Yuwne muttered, before turning back around and climbing onto Wang Chang's saddle. "Alright guys, keep a guard up. There's some psychotic shit going on up ahead so be careful." He swallowed. "We're almost at the bridge to the Imperial Camp. Then we take their lift up through the valley to Jiefong." He placed his hand on the hilt of his sword. "Just keep your guard up."

With that he began to ride forward on his black horse, the convey behind him carefully following...

***

Jensu swallowed as they sailed beneath the large-archway of the river reading in rough text Hanshan, and before them in the clearing red-roofed houses stretched out on each side of the tight water-way. The Milkweed had arrived in the Haran fields province after diverting south into the fray of waterways the Swine Valley possessed and eventually sailing back up into the dry-lands Haran was known for. It was harder to find a route in Haran, as the air itself seemed dryer - the globe itself turning hotter as they neared the Anvil Sea, where the great scientists of Yune said the sun rested over the most during each day. Jensu sniffed as she watched the wheat-farmers and shady immigrants wander the streets.

"This is where he said he'd meet you," Mohan commented from the wheel. Jensu turned to the man and quickly pulled her bottle to her mouth. "I know what he said in the letter," Jensu replied, alcohol dripping down her chin as she pulled the bottle away. It had been one of over a dozen that day. "Moga wrote it clearly: the Yawning Yak bar."

"Jensu," A voice called. The drunken captain turned to a frail goblin man approaching, one of a few working on the deck. "...Can you still free us?"

"I don't know," Jensu swallowed. "Maybe... but I'd have to find Fortune again..." She swallowed. "Listen, I'm going to talk to the guy... if I can get you out I'll walk out of the bar like normal, wearing my Captain's hat. If I can't I wont be. And if Mohan senses something is wrong he'll get the Milkweed out of this shithole of a town." She gave a small, toothy smile to the slave. "You understand?"

"I understand," The slave whispered in response before resuming to wash the deck with the other dozen or so recovered from the grounding two days prior. Jensu watched them work before turning to Mohan. "Optimistic," Mohan replied.

"Yeah, maybe," Jensu muttered, downing another half of her bottle.

The Milkweed continued down the narrow river before stopping outside a street. Jensu walked down onto the dirty-ground of the town and began to step forward, her head down and her body cloaked in her long-coat. Eventually she reached the bar in question, a few twists and turns inward of the red-coloured town. The Yawning Yak. The bouncer placed his foot over the curtained entrance as she approached.

"What is your business here, Goblin?" The large man questioned.

"Cha'Valkar," Jensu replied, not looking up. "I got a letter from his second this morning. He said he'd be around the town today and to wait for him at the bar. Has he come in at all?."

"Mister Valkar has left half an hour ago," The bouncer replied. Jensu looked up at the words. "I think he was looking for you too... he didn't believe you'd come."

Jensu swallowed. This man was clearly an associate of the slaver himself. "I believe he was heading to Jiefong," The man finished, before pointing her away...

Mohan watched as the tiny coated form of Jensu pelted down the street, back toward the boat. "He left town!" She screamed as she ran. "They're taking the south route, a road by the river!" Mohan nodded, already knowing what to do...

***

Shades of deep-red coloured the trees of Haran all-year long, with grasses constantly dry and bristly. A harsh province with unusual things growing in it, it truly was. But there was still water flowing through its veins, and thus there was prosperity and life. Cha'Valkar's party paused at the river the dirt road to Jiefong followed beside. Beneath the forest of red-trees they refilled water bottles and prepared to move once more, hoping to reach the great city by nightfall.

Suddenly a loud horn sounded off, echoing loudly in the quiet scene. The birds flew from the trees as down the river the damaged Milkweed sailed. "Cha'Valkar," Jensu greeted as the ship slowed to the camp's resting spot. She carefully flung over the edge of the junk and landed on the road. "Good to finally meet the man who stole my mother," She hissed at the man. "I have your shipment. Some of it at least..."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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#, as written by Nulix
Yuwen rode forward grimly, Master Wang Chang pausing as they approached the six guards who surrounded the couple. "Excuse me," He called over the armoured-beast men. He looked over the head of a black-bear creature to get to the couple. "Excuse me, do you know what happened here?"

The silky haired noble-man stroked the woman's hair before looking up at Yuwen. "No idea... these are our lands, good sir. We own the Bao-Laei estate, this crossroads corners them with the water..." He swallowed. "I went to walk with my beautiful new bride when we saw this... scene."

"Right," Yuwen muttered, carefully passing the bodies by on the grass. "Let's hope that doesn't come back," Yuwen muttered, watching the guards as they maneuvered around the scene. As they began to ride again Yuwen spotted another figure: a man with odd-hair resting against a tree opposite the river. "Hold on, we got another one," He called, before galloping up to the sleeping man. "Excuse me!" He called loudly at the man. "There's been a massacre a bit down the road. Do you know what that's about, sir?"

***

Jensu swallowed as she stared at the blonde-haired slaver. Her head was aching but her concentration felt stable. Cha'Valkar, the man himself. She'd heard of him on and off, and he most likely never her. It was in Poyo that one of his underlings raided the goblins, capturing her mother in the process, and figured out that blackmail was a much cheaper way of getting someone to deliver slaves than actually paying. The deal in the letter had been if Jensu delivered the slaves to Foroe her mother would be set free, a deal she agreed to until meeting Fortune, who claimed to know where her mother had been diverted to. And hopefully he still did, because she had a feeling this encounter would go bad.

"We had an accident on the Gan river, some of the cargo was lost," Jensu continued, her gaze quickly picking up Illyria in the corner. She paused. "...You were with the guild."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
They were proceeding to Jiefong in good measure, the odd trio of slaver man, slave girl, and giant half-ashura monster. They had passed by a travelling merchant, who'd given them an odd look and looked scrutinizing, almost as if he was trying to memorize their faces. Most people at least knew of the girl, Nee, in areas north of Jiefong- she was beloved, despite being a girl. But it was probably thankful that most didn't know what she looked like, since those portraits painted of her were usually idealized and perfected versions of her. Valkar, still hefting the girl over his shoulder, with the wordless Tiamat behind him, figured things were going pretty well so far. He had asked her many questions earlier during the walk; how old she was, how she got so skilled, what her current job was, but it was all met by silence. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, really. He wondered if Tiamat really liked anything except for murder and killing and murder.

"You're heavy, slave." Valkar said, breaking the silence, and feeling like tormenting her a bit more. He was giving her a free ride, after all, and he was under no obligation to do so, technically. Although the girl was as light as a feather, hardly adding any difficulty to the walk at all. "How will you make this up to me?"

He didn't really expect an answer from the girl who was still playing the silent defiance game, but she replied with a small, but resolute, "I'll save you from this life, that's how."

Well, that was certainly odd. Wouldn't most people be blindly hating him by now, and cursing the very air he breathed? As the sun burned above them, a dull confusion settled in Valkar's mind, but in the end, it didn't really matter. There was nothing Nee could really do except live and die a slave now, is the reality of the situation. And that's exactly how Valkar wanted it. So he chuckled at her sentence, idly watching the red trees drift on by as they got closer to Jiefong, one step at a time.

"This isn't who you are, Valkar." She let out a strained sigh, massaging the bruise forming in her waist from when he kicked her a while back. It hurt a lot, just a little touch would send sparks of pain up, but she tried her best to soothe the abused skin while being carried by the slaver lord.

He slapped her across the face, with a dark expression. "If this isn't me, then who am I?"

"A good person."

This slave really needed to learn a lesson. Tossing her bodily onto the ground, and muttering to Tiamat that they might as well take a little break, they stopped at the riverbank. Valkar took out his axe and started heating it up with his still weak fire chi; a small flame rising up to touch the steel; and told Nee to go and refill their water bottles. Once she was done, Valkar then forced her closer to him; and once in arms reach, he pushed her down onto the ground, face up.

"You still think I'm a good person, slave?" He asked her, and she nodded, with a knowing gulp at the red hot steel in his hand. She had wanted to give him vocal reassurance, but, well, she was honestly terrified of what she knew was coming, but was prepared to take it. She figured she'd need to suffer a lot, but in the end she'd save him somehow. A thought most would consider stupidly naive, or ridiculously brave.

"Good people don't do things like this." Valkar said in a deathly quiet voice, before lifting her skirt and lowering the hot side of the axe onto her exposed thigh. There was a hot sizzling sound and a shrill shriek of agony as the girl writhed and flailed on the ground, drowning out the once calm tinkle of the river and the chirping of the assortment of birds. The smell of burnt flesh wafted through the air, and Valkar released axe, letting it cool off in his hand before sheathing it again tossing the panting girl some ointment.

"It'll stop the scarring." He muttered, and after she hesitantly applied the ointment and gave him a mix of a pleading and piteous glance, she added, "Don't want scars on my slaves, that's all."

Looking numbly at the half-ashuran that was accompanying them, he murmured a little apology for the delay, knowing she wanted to get a move on and get this shit over with as soon as possible. That was when a loud horn resonated throughout the serene clearing, with a worse-for-wear Milkweed sailing by the river, and the goblin jumped off to face the slaver himself. Valkar smiled at her in cautious anticipation, using a hand to keep Nee safely behind him.

"Cha'Valkar." Jensu called. "Good to see the man who stole my mother. I have your shipment... some of it at least."

Now Valkar could get on with his life. He still needed to procure more goblins somehow, to meet the quota asked for by Ohano, but he could still do it in Yune, couldn't he? He knew there had to be some free goblins around a big city such as Jiefong to make up for the deficit. And he also felt a strange pleasure knowing how easy the captain was to manipulate, with his mother as a threat.

Nee gasped in recognition, and made sure to hide even more behind Valkar. The slaver wondered exactly why she was hiding, but it suited his purposes well enough. Was she afraid of goblins, or something? He looked at her in the corner of his eye, and felt that she was sturdy; not even a hint of a tremor. So she wasn't afraid.

"We had an accident on the Gan river, some of the cargo was lost," Jensu continued, her gaze quickly picking up Illyria in the corner. She paused. "...You were with the guild."

"You'll get your mother back..." Valkar said with a smug grin, hands ready just in case Jensu attacked. He knew he could easily take her, but he didn't want to risk his new slave. Dealing with any unneeded injuries on her would be dissatisfying, and ruin the idea of having her in the first place. "After you get me the slaves to make up for the ones you lost. I think we should travel with you, to make sure you don't try anything, okay?" He gave the goblin an innocent smile at that. "I always did like boats, so please treat us nicely."

He felt something rustle behind him and knew Nee was using her chi again to calm everyone down. A tiny amount of inner pride glowed towards her from him, but was quickly snuffed out.

"Or, I could just sell your mother to the client." Another innocent, cheerful smile, and an amiable pat on the Captains shoulder. "Would that be an acceptable alternative?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Rumelis Morende Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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#, as written by Nulix
Yuwen gave a half-smile as the purple-haired psychopath threatened him. He leaned back on his horse, giving a bemused expression to his teammates, before turning back to the armed man. "I won't do anything, I'm not the law," He replied dismissively. "Of course over that bridge up ahead in the valley is an Imperial Camp. I'm sure they'll have some words for you." He nodded at the man before carefully turning his horse to face the bear-man. "We're heading to Jiefong, its not far," He commented as he leaned forward on Master Wang Chang. "You can travel in our wagons if you want. I'm Yuwen Fortune, this is my guild."

***

"Don't touch me," Jensu replied to the disgusting Valkar as they moved up the gangplank to the side of the Junk. The deck was empty, save for the large white-skinned Oni Mohan. Slaves were nowhere to be seen. "I dropped them off in the town," Jensu lied as they stepped aboard. "To a beast-man who said he was an associate of yours." Another lie. She'd free'd them outside town, more confident in Yuwen's information on her mother than in Valkar's threat. Jensu swallowed as she quickly went toward the wheel before the slaver had time to respond. Hopefully he'd be more forgiving for incompetence than betrayal, and her mother could still be saved.

"Oh dear," Mohan commented to Amanha as he raised anchor. "You're with him."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
The goblin captain recoiled visibly as they climbed up onto the esteemed and, actually quite run-down Milkweed. Valkar chuckled to himself- this Jensu had some spirit that could use some breaking. However, she was more useful as a tool to manipulate than anything else. So she'd be spared any slavery attempt unless the situation radically changed. A snow oni, pale as sleet, seemed to be the last crewmate, and, feeling a primal need grow within him, Valkar really just wanted some alone time with his slave. He had to make sure she wouldn't try any mind games with him from now on; because deep down, Valkar knew his resolve was beginning to shake. And only a fate worse than death awaited him if he swayed in his purpose.

"I dropped them off in the town," Jensu said grimly, not really looking directly at Valkar. Nee's breath stiffened and she glanced nervously at the goblin- seemingly detecting something but not saying anything about it. Valkar decided not to pay it mind, and let the goblin continue. "To a beast-man who sad he was an associate of yours."

He had several, but as far as he could tell, none of his beast-men were stationed there. Unless they were in Moga's unit, and they passed by the town during the mobilization. It was slightly suspicious, and Valkar knew he'd have to confirm it with Moga after- but right now, there were more important things to do. He looked to his old enemy, Tiamat, and shuffled over more coins; knowing her lure. "Make sure they don't do anything to harm me, you, or Nee." He murmured to her. "And, well, thanks for coming along."

Grabbing the slave by the collar, Valkar basically tossed her into the hall and kicked her into a room, where he locked the door. And to be sure, this wasn't about a man's need at all. No... otherwise, any would do, and be more satisfying. This was something different- a show of power. Valkar had to prove that he was in control; that Nee was utterly helpless. It's his duty, as slave master. And he made sure to choose the smallest room possible.

"So, you're going to do it." Nee mumbled in a dull, faded voice, limp and just sort of staring at the wooden wall. Valkar smirked; the girl really was sharp. She probably knew this was inevitable, after all.

"As an extra bonus." Valkar kissed her light on the lip, his aura overwhelming hers in a show of force and power. "I'll even call you Nee during the whole thing."

She let out a little, tired sigh, but didn't show any signs of resisting. If Valkar was looking at the girl at all, though, he'd have seen the tears start trickling down her small face. "D-do as you will, then."

He picked her up and threw her roughly onto the bed. She didn't really do anything at all.




Valkar was cleaning the bloodied sheets, feeling more or less edified as the girl had completely shut down halfway through her ordeal. He'd been rough on purpose, and she had screamed- probably loud enough for the people out on deck to hear. Valkar didn't really care, though. He had to discipline his favorite slave, after all. At first she'd tried desperately to talk him out of it, saying that he was better than a brutish act like that; that she'd had faith in him and wanted to have a long friendship together. He answered by hitting her small body over and over.

The girl was just curled up in a ball in the corner of the room, but Valkar wasn't bothered. Most girls reacted that way when forced into the act. Unlike most, though, the girl took a brave gulp and started talking again.

"Th-the goblin... she's obviously not... she doesn't like you." She said in a small, washed out voice. "What if she betrays you?"

Valkar laughed contently at his slave's naivety. "She won't. Not while her mother's being held by one of my men."

The girl thought quickly, still not looking at him; and not willing to address what had just happened. "But the man you sent to Poyo, he was just bait, right?"

Sharp. Almost insanely sharp, to the point that Valkar wondered if the girl had some sort of foresight. "Yeah, just a decoy. Wouldn't leave such an easy target out there to someone with a crew, after all."

Something went together in Nee's mind. With a wistful glane at Valkar, she took small steps and exited the room after wrapping a clean sheet around her body. Valkar just shrugged, and decided the girl probably didn't want to see him at the moment. He decided to take the time trying to wonder why he felt like such a monster when he never felt this amount of guilt ever before. It irritated him to a great degree.




"Jensu." Nee muttered quietly to the captain at the helm. "Let's make a deal."

Without waiting for an answer, and looking back to see if Valkar had followed her, she continued, clutching the sheet closer to her body. "I know you lied to V-.. to Master... about the slaves. If you promise that they're safe... I'll tell you where your mother is,"

She then glanced at a map close by and pointed out the rivers. "The man in Poyo is a decoy." The girl started. "So, I thought, where would logically be the best place for her to end up, and still be close enough for him to grasp at, as well as the travel time, there was only one place. Where the river flows north here,' "She pointed, trailing her finger up, and wiping away at more tears. "It leads into a canal in the rather large city of Lyropta. I'll bet my life that your mother's still en-route, not quite at Lyropta just yet."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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Truly, the universe's loathing for me never ceases to surprise.

Amanhã had proceeded in silence throughout the journey-- even as Cha'Valkar directed question after question after fucking inane question at her, even as he stopped to waste time dithering about and disciplining his slave, she said not a word, simply trudging along, her face obscured by her helmet, an obdurate, apathetic figure, a presence more than a person. She preferred it to be that way-- to be a person was something vulnerable and pathetic, and those were not things Amanhã had made a practice of letting herself be in years.

She liked to think she'd been quite successful in that regard. Perhaps not completely so, but... successful enough.

But when that damn goblin from before showed up, Amanhã decided she was clearly not doing something right, because whatever preternatural force was guiding the destiny of each individual on this cursed lump of rock had seen fit to drag back into the bounty hunter's life what she assumed had to be the last living component of her brief escapade with that Glorious Clan Flamboyance or whatever. They'd just stopped for yet another moment of repose, and Amanhã waited with withering patience for Cha'Valkar to burn his slave or call her worthless or some such inanity, when like a bolt from the damn blue, the all too familiar form of the asininely named Milkweed, its damaged carcass evidently successfully recovered, emerged down the riverbank and came to a gradual halt beside their little makeshift resting place.

When the goblin recognised Amanhã, the half-Ashuran said nothing, merely scowling behind her helmet and observing the scene unfold before her. Apparently Cha'Valkar was planning on taking the ship to Jiefong, which... Hmm. That could prove advantageous to me, if I force myself to endure the inevitable inanities that will unfold consequently. After all, it would get her closer to her objective faster than if she made the journey on foot, and she could probably force herself to suffer the asinine chatter of the goblin and her crew mate, or the continued subjugation of the slave girl. I suppose I could think of worse, she mused, glaring through the slits of her helmet at her overly loquacious (and wholly temporary) travelling partner.

Therefore, as the slaver and his latest acquisition boarded the ship with the goblin at the lead, Amanhã followed wearily, looking forward to leaving all this shit behind-- Cha'Valkar, the imbecile slave girl, the goblin, all remnant connections to the guild. And when the white-skinned oni crew mate observed to her as she boarded, as if in passing, "Oh dear, you're with him," she simply strode on past. But even she couldn't help but muse wryly, You're not the only one who's baffled. But then, the world's been all too confusing lately.







The screams echoed up to the deck of the Milkweed like there was nothing between the wooden surface and the scene of torment occurring beneath it.

Amanhã stood as still and resolute as a statue, as simply an inanimate suit of armour, her arms crossed across her hulking torso and her eyes ever vigilant behind the callous apathy of her helmet. The captain, up at the wheel, was indulging what was very clearly a potent alcoholism, the first mate going about his own respective duties. The screams from below deck were the only sound interrupting the otherwise serene, inexorably deep silence of what should have been a lifeless, unpolluted river, tearing through the quietude of nature like a crossbow bolt into flesh.

It was irksome. And a little unsettling even for the bounty hunter.

Time passed. At length, the screams ceased, and the blissful silence once again reigned supreme. The captain was now sobbing into the arms of the white-skinned oni, but her cries were weak and subdued. Amanhã did not turn her face toward them, gave no visible indication she'd even noticed, but her eyes narrowed on the pitiful scene. The goblin captain was in a position of powerlessness almost as absolute as the slave girl Cha'Valkar had just broken-- she clearly loathed what her ship had just been witness to, but was incapable of putting a stop to it, given the slave lord also had her mother in captivity.

She must be wondering if her mother has been subject to the same, Amanhã conceived. If she too has been broken in this manner. The bounty hunter's brow furrowed. She had always held that the weak deserved whatever they were unable to fight back against-- death, enslavement, the indignities enforced against Cha'Valkar's latest acquisition. But she had considered it, she now noted, in a vacuum-- a matter of purely that single individual and the fate they endured as a result of their powerlessness, their pathetic impotence. She had always held that because of that impotence, that helplessness, they deserved the fate meted out to them-- by Amanhã, by bandits, by slavers.

Did the goblin captain deserve this quandary?

That much, the bounty hunter was forced to conclude, was less straightforward.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Sunaarashi Character Portrait: Ann'Razul Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Yamato Hibiki Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Terra Himene Character Portrait: Rumelis Morende Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Keeflo Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Malao Character Portrait: Malachi Gabra Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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#, as written by Nulix
"I'm okay." She said quietly to the goblin captain, hugging herself tight. "I'm fine with being his slave... because, I don't think he's a bad person. If my suffering can help him, then so be it, it's worth it."

"Not a bad person?" Jensu spat in disbelief as Nee retreated to the half-breed Illyria at the bow of the deck. "Do you know what we used to do to sailors like that in the Imperial Trading Company?" She continued, her yell turning into a whisper at the realization that Valkar could hear below deck. "We'd crucify and drown them," She whispered to the two as she approached. "Now that piece of shit has a human slave. Within the Empire that's illegal." She shook her head angrily and took another chug of her bottle. "The minute we get into Jiefong I'm going to alert the guards and they'll destroy him."

She glanced up at Amanha and swallowed. "Unless you'll try to stop me," She said, having not before questioned the mysterious mercenaries loyalty.

***

Ro glared at the assembled gang who had threatened and insulted him in the midst of an army camp. Every single soldier had noticed and surrounded the trio of wagons, armed to the teeth and ready. "Well, this all checks out," Ro replied, handing Yamato back the papers. "It turns out if you had just shown me you would have been free to pass. Unfortunately you proceeded to insult me, threaten my life and commit treason in the process. In fact you should all be massively executed."

At the words the five-hundred or so soldiers in the camp prepared their blades and rose their shields for combat. Ro shrugged at the sight and began to walk away. "Good luck," He called.

"Wait, Ro!" Yuwen called, pushing passed Hyuna roughly as he ran up to the man. Ro paused to give the noble his ear. "Look... I'll pay."

"Oh good, you'll pay," Ro chuckled, raising his cup of tea off a bench.

"Listen, we surrender and go to court and then go to prison. Whatever the fine is to get out at that point I'll double it right now if you let us on our way," Yuwen pleaded. Ro was silent in response before taking another sip of tea. "They threatened you, you're in the order of the prefecture not the army," Yuwen said, putting his hands together and falling on his knees. "I am literally begging you to undo this."

"Get up, you silly man," Ro muttered, grabbing Yuwen's hand and pulling him up. "Where's the money from?"

"The account," Yuwen replied, glancing over his still surrounded teammates.

Ro let out a laugh. "The account is locked out for Yuwen Fortune and you know it, old boy."

"Then get the other Lu-Tan to do it," Yuwen said. "Tell him the amount I promise he'll extract it."

Ro pause, finish his tea before marching back toward the guild. "Off them men! They've paid a fine and are free to go!" Ro put his whistle in his mouth and blew loudly, causing the confused soldiers to back away. "I said off them!"

"It's not really an issue for you to decide, is it?" The elderly general muttered as he approached through the crowd. Ro turned, instantly getting into the older man's face. "Isn't it?" He spat. "They insulted the Prefecture, so I decide what the punishment for that would be. Right now I decide its freedom. They aren't a threat so I say they go free."

"I am your senior officer," The general whispered threateningly. "And your elder, young dragonfly."

"Alright then sick the army on me," Ro dared the general before turning to the guild. "Formation!" He yelled followed by a loud whistle blow. The red armoured prefectures surrounded the guild's caravan and carefully began to escort them through the crowd of hostile soldiers. The general watched as they walked through the camp toward it's east exit, shaking his head and dismissing the matter.

"You want to use our lift to Jiefong?" Ro questioned Yuwen as they walked out the east exit of the camp and approached the large, wooden platform built into the side of the rock. Ropes hung off it and stretched tightly along the valley stone above, and beside it large beast-man slaves stood beside handled pulleys with rope weighed down with stones to balance the lift as it rose.

"This'll take you to Jiefong," Ro explained, looking up into the cloudy mountaintops the lift's ropes disappeared into. "But it won't support all this."

"We leave everything except Master Wang Chang," Yuwen replied, pointing to his black horse.

"Okay," Ro nodded as he began to walk away with his man. "Take the moron with you," He added, nodding toward Orion. "I don't think he'll survive a trip back through the camp."

Yuwen nodded before turning to his team, the friendly expression he had with Ro was gone, now replaced by one they hadn't seen before. A mix of disappointment and anger. "...Come on," he managed at last, stepping onto the large wooden platform with his horse....

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
Valkar was having a long introspective moment, usually after completely losing himself in his hatred for pretty much most women he'd ever met. The disgusting, deceptive, narcissistic creatures deserved nothing but pain... but it wasn't like he wanted to feel that way. The man sat prone on the bed as he pondered this. He knew, logically, that Nee did nothing to really deserve this, nor did any of his other slaves, like the mother of the goblin woman, who he'd given to his men to play with as they pleased. He knew it was a terrible thing to do; she was a kindly woman, as far as he'd heard, but he also knew that offering her to his men would help keep them loyal. And that, in general, was more worthwhile than any sort of moral decision.

In any case, the man sighed ruefully as he longed for some sort of strong drink. He'd already passed the moral event horizon long ago, no matter what he did, there was no way Nee could really do anything to save him from his darkness. He didn't even know why she bothered- he'd even raped her and completely ruined her idyllic life. She'd had a lot of potential to be amazing, didn't she? Pretty, funny, and smart enough to bypass the usual gender discrimination within Yune nobles and gain the admiration of most nobles in northern Yune. All of that was stripped away- without her virgin-knot, her worth had gone down at least a little bit. Not that it really mattered; she wouldn't ever be returning to the life of a noble, right?

At least, that's what he was going for.

Still, Valkar did hear the outburst from the goblin captain up above deck. Did Nee somehow plot something? Valkar let out a curse, wondering when he'd learn to stop underestimating the slave girl, and got up, wondering what the hell he was really planning with his life at all.




As expected, the goblin, Jensu, reacted negatively to her urging. Of course she would; Jensu was a good woman, and Nee new very well someone with morals wouldn't let a girl wander around in chains like this, especially with what they all heard below deck not too long ago. Nee absently noted that her step was wavering, her head was spinning, and that if she didn't focus on bottling everything up, her body would tremble almost violently. She felt nauseous, almost as if by physically rejecting what had happened, it could reverse the damage done. She scrunched her toes up underneath the sheet to relieve stress as best as she could without anyone seeing. She tried to smile reassuringly at the goblin as she returned to her, but even Nee knew that her smile was wobbly and shaky, obviously not convincing anyone anytime soon that she was fine. What wasn't fine was hearing Jensu's loud outburst- since her screams had pierced the wood, it was obvious Jensu's voice would too, and that the slaver lord would hear her. The girl's breath quickened just a tad as she wondered what the next torment would be. She'd have to stick by her decision, though, and do her best to dissuade the goblin from doing anything against Valkar.

He was too useful a tool, if she could exploit the seeds of compassion.

"We'd crucify and drown them," Jensu murmured quietly.

Yes, she'd definitely have to try and find a way to make Jensu change her mind. Nee scanned the goblin woman's face closely, full of grief, guilt, and anger all at the same time in a somewhat drunken stupor. Grief at the travesty her ship had been forced to suffer, guilt at being too cowardly to do anything about it, and anger at the red-clad man being housed down below. But if Nee could convince Jensu that she had everything under control, she still had a chance to keep things at the very least, not violent until they hit Jiefong. And, well, she was glad the slaves were saved. It was one less burden to bear, and another fact tot ake into account- Jensu would try to do things behind the scenes to sabotage Valkar, and she'd have to try to outwit and dodge those plots once they hit land.

"I'm really okay." Nee stressed, her voice thin and weary. She was still shivering and looking more than anything, a traumatized girl that had seen too much. It was unfortunate, but there were no plants on board really to take advantage of her chi to make the captain in a more suggestible mood. And Nee was too afraid; too weak and sore; too isolated and alone to really put on her best mask and hide all the pain. "I... please, Jensu, once we hit Jiefong, go and find your mother. Then you can put all this past you, and forget about me; forget about Valkar, and focus on getting things back in order." She spoke in a calm, soothing tone, hoping her voice could undo the weakness of her body. "And, hey, u-uhm-"

Her persuasion powers were interrupted by a man walking up, looking annoyed; a sour frown on his face.

"Don't even try it." Valkar growled to the girl, and although usually she could withstand verbal abuse without a peep, her weakened mental state made her release a small squeak of terror, covering her mouth as quickly as she could. "Captain, she's incredibly manipulative. Best to just ignore the slave."

He laughed lewdly, with a piercing look straight at the girl. "You're probably trying to convince her to let you free in exchange for information about her mother, right?"

He violently gripped Nee by the shoulder, squeezing it hard and making her wince, tears brimming up once again, even as she desperately fought to keep them down and maintain composure.

"Hurry it up, Captain." Valkar murmured. "We have to round up a few more goblins, anyways to ship over.:




Hyuna was annoyed. And feeling more useless than ever. And she still wanted to kill. Keeping mostly to herself, only making a noncommittal grunt in response to Ann's comment of liking her, but not wanting to have to attack her next time she went flying out of control, and she watched as Yuwen, with words, resolved the entire problem with little to no effort.

She looked at the guild itself; the dancing singing oni, who'd unofficially taken his spot as second in command, Muna the... okay, well, Hyuna didn't want to think about Muna at all, to be honest. She also thought about Razul, strong and yet emotionally... cold at the same time. And more and more she realized that she was the odd one out in this group that she really had no place there at all. Even Yamato was finding his place. But Hyuna was still the loose cannon; the one to get everyone else in danger and having them over up for her fuck ups.

What the hell was she doing there, anyways? Why not just blindly wander aroud until she ended up in something way out of her skill level and got unceremoniously killed, all alone? Wouldn't that be better? She smirked a little to herself, even as they got on the lift.

"Well sure, depending on how fast Hyuna gets us executed next time, maybe she'll already have fucked us enough to be arrest by the time we reached the top, eh?"

No kindness from her childhood friend, that's for sure. She faintly heard Muna say something to him, but her mind only registered the latter part.

"I think you should be more considerate of others in the future as we consider you."

The bunny girl, who Hyuna had depended on for kindness, spurned her, hadn't she? Their brief moment of friendship must not have meant much to anyone, then, back on that river in the shipwreck. Shame burned hard, and more darkness and despair gathered.

"I think we could all stand to learn a bit of restraint..."

As if she didn't hate the dancing singing Oni enough already.

She wasn't a hero, like in the old make-believe games back then, when everything was still good. She wasn't even remotely neutral at all. Hyuna scowled as she realized that she was the one that shouldn't even be here at all, not even having enough left in her to try to respond to the voices pestering her psyche.

Useless. Pathetic. Childish.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Nulix
Yuwen gave an aside glance to Hyuna before shaking his head like a tool. As they rose higher the sun could be seen over the many lands and waters of the province they'd crossed, nearing the edge of the horizon. The winds began to pick up and the air become colder as they rose higher and higher...

***

Suddenly Jensu found herself hung by the leg, her captain's hat falling into the passing waters and her long-coat flying down over he face. "Hey!" She screamed, flailing drunkenly with her eyes covered. As soon as she had been grabbed she was thrown back on the deck, now at Valkar's feet. Valkar grabbed the girl by the shoulder roughly and covered her mouth. "Captain, she's incredibly manipulative. Best to just ignore the slave," He spoke firmly. "Hurry it up, Captain. We have to round up a few more goblins, anyways to ship over."

Jensu looked up at the man, and then at the giantess who stood behind her. She swallowed and rose, cracking her neck as she did before facing the man head on. Valkar watched her rise unamused, occasionally gripping Nee's shoulder harder to let out a scream. "Stop hurting her," Jensu spat, standing as tall as she could to the man. "Stop hurting her on my ship."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
What the hell was up with weird girl? She knew that if she tried anything, Hyuna'd snap and wreck her day. So, it was really a wonder as to why she tried to smile that stupidly weird smile. Shaking with something between anger and self-loathing, the spear girl kept walking, head down and keeping herself blocked off from the world. Cold winds were coming up now; bitter and chilling. Although it emitted no heat, Hyuna decided to make an illusion of a small flame in her hand, until the wind blew it out.

Damn it. Even beaten by nature. Scowling further, she kept walking until somehow a voice just barely pierced her darkness.

"I'm sorry if what I said before was harsh." Muna said quietly, looking almost as if she cared about if the spear girl lived or died. She probably didn't, and was only trying to trick her into letting her mess with her mind again, right? Before Hyuna could react with hostility, the rabbit kept on talking. "It's just those actions make me worry. I don't want to lose you so early Hyuna. I'm not exactly a benefit to your health in case you hadn't noticed and I would be very saddened if I was unable to aid you in dangerous situations."

"Sure." She looked away and muttered quietly, feeling the familiar but still confusing emotions whirl within her once again, but tried her best to stifle it with the darkness once more. Who'd care for a useless person like her? And knowing her, who'd want to? Hyuna hunched over even more, noticing the rabbit was shivering. It stung at her mind incessantly seeing that Muna was cold. "Not like I'm much of a benefit to anyone here either." She gave a grim smile to Muna. "Fortune here would probably prefer if I left, right?"

Still, she made a barrier of wind unconsciously to cover Muna, blushing as she did so. "You have what you wanted, right? The air barrier. Y-you don't have to keep talkin' to me."




The goblin captain, after being dangled in the air, just over the water by the now acting suit of armor, seemed to have gotten a bit of sense, or lost it entirely, Nee thought sourly, trying to think of how to fix this. If they even let Jensu live, she'd tell the authorities in Jiefong, and not even Nee could plot out the blind points in that big a city, of that many guards. So the only way to try and defuse things was to stop it at the root. When Jensu made her statement, trying to stand tall despite her short stature, sticking up for the noble girl, Nee almost wanted to put a hand to her face and shake her head. It was good, touching gesture, almost helped a tiny bit with the increasing pressure in her shoulder, but she also knew that this was almost a death sentence.

"You're trying to tell me what to do," Valkar lifted the girl and punched her hard in the throat, not even looking at her coughing and gasping like a dying rodent on the wood floor of the Milkweed's deck. He was angry, and the goblin had stepped out of line. She didn't have any power in this situation; her mother was still held captive, and as far as Valkar knew, she had no way to locate the hostage at all without his help. Which she'd only get if she earned it, although the way things are looking, it seemed things weren't going to end well for both of the goblins. "To my slave?" He brutally lifted the gaspng girl intot he air and shook her by the collar. "See this collar, goblin? She's just property, for me to deal with as I... as I wish. If you value your life- and that of your mother, you'll not try undermining the power relationship between us."

He shrugged, releasing Nee, almost tossing her into the railing. "Or, do you want to have done what I did to Nee- I mean, my slave here, to your mother, Goblin?"

Nee shot a worried glance at Jensu, before turning to Mohan, the first mate.

"Oni." She said hurriedly, in a hoarse tone after recovering. "Um. Please, once you drop us off at Jiefong... don't let Jensu get further involved in this. P-please, just, go and rescue her mother and forget about us. I don't want her to get hurt on my behalf... and, um, I'm sorry, I'm really sorry for the trouble!"

She bowed her head. "I'm b-begging you. Please."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Nulix
Jensu glared up at the man who had invaded her ship, who had blackmailed and threatened her, who had kidnapped her mother, and all sense of consequence and worry was replaced by rage and the unstoppable drive to punch the man in the throat over and over until he could no longer breath. Her hand balled into a fist and the weak pleading of the beaten girl seemed to only fuel her rage.

"Woah, woah!" A voice called from the stern. Jensu paused, turning to see where it had come from. "This is all a bit harsh isn't it?" A figure called out, stepping carefully on a pink willow branch that extended across the river. The figure leapt down and rough leather boots landed hard by the wheel of the ship. He rose, his lite black cloak falling down, patches of animal rug woven along with it up until the hood, which was dark and surrounded by coyote fur. It was a figure Jensu and Illyria had seen before. The hooded villain stepped forward on the deck, glancing down at Nee as he passed. "I was looking for Yuwen Fortune, thought he may have helped you with the ship - but this looks like some illegal activity, captain."

***

Yuwen kept quiet as they rose higher and higher until they surpassed the most earthly clouds. The wind wasn't bad but the cold had set in, snow now falling off onto the platform from the rocks of the mountain it disrupted in it's ascent. "It may be summer down there," Yuwen whispered, snuggling up as best he could in his armour. "But it's winter up here."

The lift continued on, above them the torches of the end shinning. It moved over the final curve of the mountain and was pulled onto flat, snowy land at the top. Imperial guards rushed forward and opened the railing for them to step out. Before them was a flat-land of white fields scattered with blue-painted houses made of stone and thatched roofing. Beyond the small farm-land a large, white wall stood.

Yuwen carefully climbed onto Master Wang Chang and turned to his friends. "Come on!" He called, before riding forward through the fields, the Guild running to keep up. After a few minutes they had reached the stone-wall, and an open gate stood before them. White-uniformed guards stood like statues in the cold as the Great Guild passed through.

"Welcome to the upper level," The voice of a greeter greeted as they exited onto a snowy hill. Yuwen glanced at the warmly coated man before looking outward. Below them grand mansions and estates stood, similarly built as the farm-houses. They lined clean stone streets built along dozens of flowing canals which were filled with small boats and bridges. Water flowed everywhere on the rich area, all coming from one titanic river that ran down from the mountainside on which the city was built. At the end of the houses and waterways a large wall bordered with stairways and passages leading into another level of the city lower down on the mountain, again filled with the canals but with tighter and with smaller houses. The city spread even further down on a third level, this one barely visible from the cloudy top. There was no snow and it seemed to spread out on the green valley below, the river still passing through it and eventually out of the city into the farmlands beyond.

"Three levels, thirty-three thousand citizens, and thirty degrees temperature difference all at once," The guide chuckled as he walked them down the snowy hill toward a street on the upper level. "Welcome to the noble quarter," He began. "My name is Jahoul. You used the military lift so I assume you are a group of importance?"

Yuwen looked down the rich street, at the pale nobility wrapped in large, fur-coats giving the group slight looks as they entered the street. "Yes," He said after a moment. "Yes we are."

"Right, the palace of the old King is over there," Jahoul began, pointing to a large building which towered up like the mountainside behind it. "You can find war administration there."

"And a hotel?" Yuwen questioned, shivering slightly. "Clothes as well?"

"Head to the centre of the noble-quarter," Jahoul explained. "Just keep heading down this canal a few streets and you'll reach the Jiefong river. All the shops are there."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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The goblin hit the floor hard, and lay there as Valkar spoke, as he crushed his hand around the slave girl's shoulder and squeezed tears out of her. Amanhã expected the captain to acquiesce at that point-- probably break down into useless sobbing, which she seemed quite prone to. After all, nothing Amanhã had ever seen of her indicated the presence of any semblance of a spine to the diminutive little runt-- she had let herself be dragged into a state of sorrow, her ship could hardly even be called hers by this point, and all she could have done about Cha'Valkar's abuse of the slave girl (which deeply affected her, for one reason or another) was cry about it. Pathetic little thing, she mused impassively, watching the goblin lying uselessly on the floor. It must be quite a pity to endure existence as such a small, insubstantial creature.

It was a thought devoid of sympathy or cruelty either way. A mere observation. Amanhã Tiamat did not deal in sympathy or in cruelty-- only in reality in its true nature.

When the goblin began to clamber up to her feet, Amanhã figured she would skulk off and probably drink and cry some more-- imagine her surprise, then, when she promptly did none of that. Instead, she turned to the slaver, drew herself up to her full height (which was about as imposing as a particularly robust cockroach), and spat, with all the venom of the deadliest snakes that haunted the jungles of Askia, "Stop hurting her on my ship."

Amanhã raised an eyebrow. Is it an anatomic characteristic of goblins to grow a spine when dangled over water? she questioned to herself. No, that couldn't be it-- no other goblin she'd dangled over water had come out of it emboldened by the experience, largely because most goblins couldn't swim and the 'dangling' bit didn't last long. Nevertheless-- the captain's sudden burst of defiance was pointless. She was between a powerful slave lord and a massive bounty hunter, neither of whom had any qualms with turning her existence into one of agony and misery. That she was defiant at least put her on a level above the pathetic slave girl, but that didn't mean a whole lot when, all things said and done, she was still a four foot five goblin built like a weed between two oak trees.

Valkar made a point of this to the goblin by promptly... abusing the slave girl instead of the captain, for one reason or another. The bounty hunter would have figured the point would have been better made by, say, taking one of the captain's eyes, or cutting out her tongue, but this was only her battle insofar as she was paid to make it her battle, and she wasn't being paid to torture the goblin, so she wasn't about to take it on herself to do that. Instead, she simply watched Valkar continue to abuse his slave, having returned more or less to a state comparable to a statue...

Her eyes snapped to the source of movement on her peripherals even before the voice reached her ears-- saw boot-clad feet lightly hopping along the tree branch hanging over the passing ship, saw the hooded figure land on the deck, and immediately decided there would be murder this day. Fuck all of this. First the goblin, now this piece of shit? I've had enough of that goddamn guild to last me a lifetime-- why does it continue to follow me around like this? A growl of brimming rage escaped her lips as she reached back and drew her greatsword, absolutely unwilling to deal with this bastard again.






"It shouldn't be difficult at all. An armoured half-Ashuran, a tall Gwanish human with long blonde hair, and a small girl travelling with them. Pretty sure that ain't a common sight in Yune. We'll make for Jiefong first of all-- it's the largest city in that region, and if they aren't there themselves, some word of their going-ons will certainly be found there."

"Of course. And again, if any payment is necessary--"

"Not at all. Removing the blight of slavery from the land is what we do. We're not mercenaries."

"No indeed. According to Gwanish and Sudean authority, you're bandits."

"Only further proof that law does not necessarily mean right. They believe a sovereign person can rightfully be considered the property of another person, and that to free a slave from their captivity is nothing short of thievery. One does well to avoid confusing lawfulness with righteousness."

"I just want my daughter back-- law be damned. I just want my daughter back, and I want the scum who took her from me to pay dearly. You can promise me that, can't you?"

"Of course. After all..." the warrior once known as Noxchi Soleikh turned away from the anxious form of Me-Hyung and started for the door. "I have a personal stake in this as well."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
The rabbit girl looked at least a little warmer, a fast that didn't know if it wanted to irk Hyuna or give some some comfort, and instead just confusing the hell out of her while she tried to, and unsuccessfully too, deal with her foul mood. Muna herself was slightly frowning when she insisted that she didn't use people for her own ends, and although some deep part of the spear girl wanted to agree, in the midst of her psychosis, there was no way she'd just accept that as an answer. She just made a little, disagreeing grunt, turning away from the rabbit girl as the lift rose and brought them closer to Jiefong.

"Fortune's had a bad day and with all that has happened so far, I'm sure he just needs a bit of rest and he won't be so cross anymore." The voice wormed its way into her head, digging into her thoughts and messing her up even more. She, forcing the blush away, tried to glare at Muna and failed, and instead just looked meekly down at her feet, before turning away again, and wondering if, just maybe, if she had some sort of severe mental problem, because it just wasn't right to be this conflicted about anything. Most of the time, for Hyuna, when she wanted something, she could charge ahead at it without a second thought, so she wasn't used to anything different. She wasn't used to actually being useful and worthwhile.

The rabbit girl continued in that perpetually soft voice of hers, "He's a good man as far as I can tell but you've had prior experience with him. My observation's still in the making after all.. And you are a part of this guild and every bit as useful as everyone else. Don't be so down on yourself! Come now, you have plenty of good traits and are an experienced fighter as far as I can see."

Hyuna let out a cold, bitter laugh. Good traits? She was so bad that even her childhood friend, the kind of friend that was meant to last forever, wanted nothing really to do with her, despite their past. Perhaps he never liked her at all in the first place, and was only putting up with her. Is that why he focused mainly on him during their little make-believe times, and not about her and her feelings and thoughts? Likely, Hyuna scowled deeply, very likely.

She should just impale Yuwen and be done with it. She really wanted to, too, drive the spear through him, drop him off the lift ad then fly away using her air chi, and never meet any of these guildmates again. It was tempting and she felt the desire rush through her. But then before she could get a good grip on her weapon, she found herself staring blankly at a large grin. "I'm so thankful to have such a strong warrior looking out for me. And you still have room to grow! We all do really."

"I don't trust you." Hyuna mumbled with a guarded expression, trying not to tremble and overload with emotions. "You... I, well, you do something weird to my head, and I don't.... I don't get it. It messes me up, and I just..."

Damnit, why was she feeling the urge to burst into tears? Blushing hard and turning away again, she tried to get back into her dark mood again. Anything was better than this.

And yet, once in the magnificent city of Jiefong, in all its glory and splendor up on these Comrade Mountains, Hyuna found herself staring wistfully at the bunny girl once more, not yet taking her opportunity to escape and find a place where she could belong.




A fierce glare- so it seemed Jensu wasn't being cowed by the threat anymore, and instead wanted to keep on fighting. Nee wasn't sure if she felt good about this or not- for one, it honestly felt a little... a little nice, that someone would go to these lengths for her sake. But on the other hand, being released from Valkar would only serve to hamper her plans. And that was unacceptable. But to be frank, she really coudn't think of a way to solve things so easily- maybe it'd be best if, once they got to Jiefong, ignored the contract for the goblin slaves and just escaped, leaving Tiamat behind; this in itself was significant, because by removing Tiamat from the equation, things would be more under her control, and she could, easily trick Valkar into playing the role she had chosen for him.

Valkar felt something similar to vehemence but not quite as he looked at the fuming and raging goblin, and then back to little Nee, begging desperately for the snow oni to do something. His lip curled nastily while he thought inwardly, what if it'd have been better if he just stopped being a slaver, and accepted the offer Nee gave him, what seemed like so long ago. He wished he'd chosen that route, instead of this one... and be free from the burden he carried. But it was too late to turn back and regret now.

But then a new piece entered the board, and all eyes turned to see who the new visitor was. It a hooded man, looking quite confident and powerful as he approached the conflict arising around him. Nee shot a calculating gaze at the figure, as if trying to discern something rapidly in her mind while Valkar immediately went for his axe, seeing something that he currently had no threat against other than brute force. The man made an almost cursory glance at Nee before talking.

"I was looking for Yuwen Fortune, thought he may have helped you with the ship - but this looks like some illegal activity, captain."

Valkar gave no heed to his words; he knew from the hostile sound in his voice that this was an enemy. And, like all enemies, they had to die before they could do any harm. The slaver lord looked aside at Tiamat and nodded in her direction as she drew her greatsword, trying to form a silent agreement with her to attack the man, but not entirely knowing if the message was conveyed. Meanwhile Nee was trying to think quickly, seeing as how the board was quickly becoming unstable. First of all, she made sure to engrave the name 'Yuwen Fortune' into her mind, seeing as this is the second time she's heard it in one day. Chances are they'd meet his Great Guild, so she had to prepare for that eventuality. He, the hooded man certainly looked like a villain, and to be honest, Nee was afraid of the prospect of having being too close to him; that his hands would touch her flesh. She shuddered at the thought, and at her own feelings; she was supposed to be tough enough to withstand something like rape; she didn't want to succumb to it.

Valkar rushed forward, only to see Nee there in front of him, clutching to him in desperation, her frail figure in the billowing winds.

"Let's not fight; let's just go Va-, I mean, Master, okay? We can walk the rest of the way, can't we?" She looked nervously at the seemingly damaged Milkweed. "If we fight, the ship, won't we get a shipwreck? Let's resolve this peacefully somehow." She looked over to Tiamat with a piercing gaze. However enigmatic she was, the giant suit of armor, Nee knew she still wanted to live. "And I doubt you can swim with all that armor, Tiamat. Do you really want to drown, because you started a pointless fight?"

Valkar, feeling even more unsure of himself, and finding himself not wanting to drag Nee into actual life-threatening danger, hesitated. He looked over at Tiamat, wondering what she would do, and decided he would just follow suit.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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Amanhã watched with hostile suspicion as the hooded figure approached, having already decided she was going to attack him-- even before he implied that he was going to interfere in Cha'Valkar's slave business in some manner. It was just a matter of an opening-- of finding the most opportune chance to put this screaming, flaming, worthless chi-user down for good, and thus bury yet another dogging remnant of her brief stint with that pathetic fucking guild.

The slave lord seemed to have similar ideas: he nodded to Amanhã as she brought her greatsword to bear, and then, taking his axe in his hands, he stepped toward the chi-user-- Amanhã raised the greatsword, certain that the chi-user couldn't possibly fight back both herself and Cha'Valkar....

And then the slave girl intervened.

She clutched pathetically at the slave lord, a weasel attempting to hamper the will of a tiger, and urged to him, "Let's not fight. Let's just go, Va-- I mean--" she stumbled over the slaver's name."-- Master, okay? We can walk the rest of the way, can't we? If we fight, the ship, won't we get a shipwreck? Let's resolve this peacefully somehow." Amanhã only cared about a damn thing the stupid girl said insofar as it influenced the slave lord-- her chances of slaughtering the chi-user were much greater, after all, with Cha'Valkar acting as an additional distraction to the imbecile. She didn't expect the little degenerate to turn to her and begin urging to her as well-- and yet she did, gazing at Amanhã with a sharp glare. "And I doubt you can swim with all that armour, Tiamat. Do you really want to drown, because you started a pointless fight?"

As though a switch had been flipped, a cold fury enveloped the bounty hunter. Drown-- exactly the manner in which this worthless son of a bitch had almost killed her previously, and not even directly, not even by any skill or intent of his own. This little slave whelp dared to bring up that shameful moment in an attempt to hamper Amanhã's murderous intentions? The very thought stoked the frigid flames of a rage that exploded all too suddenly.

This time, she gave no verbal indication of anger or discontent-- she simply hurled herself at the chi-user, violently swinging her greatsword at him, all the more determined to reduce him to a wet stain on the wooden deck. Seeing her action, Cha'Valkar shoved the slave girl out of his way, and followed suite, aiming to counter the chi-user's responce.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Ann'Razul Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
When both Tiamat and Valkar charged despite her warning, Nee couldn't really do anything but rub a palm to her face and murmur; "imbeciles" almost silently before returning back to her facade of someone bordering on being relatively emotionally fit, considering the circumstances. The hooded man leapt into the air and fended them off with a wall of flame, somehow not reaching and setting the ship alight. The man said something about needing the ship, and not wanting to burn it down, and Nee etched that bit of information into her mind, making sure not to forget that his task required, among other things, a boat of sorts, and placed the first variable to deciphering this stranger. Nee was about to step in again to try and stop the fighting once again before she felt a pat on her head- and it was from this hooded man.

One'd expect her, since she'd been broken by Valkar, to have this reaction to his touch; from just seeing him. Even Nee wasn't entirely sure why it manifested in a phobia of any other man touching her, but she assumed it had something to do with the fact that she could predict almost with good accuracy the things that run through his mind; and she she could control him once the time came. But still, when concerning trauma, logic doesn't exactly come into play. Regardless of all that, the girl froze up completely, flinching going utterly blank. "So, want to tell me who you two are?"

Seeing Nee's negative reaction to being patted, Valkar feinted at the man with his axe, instead grabbing the slave girl from his grasp; in a protective and gentle hold with one arm. He didn't know who this man was, but he shared fire chi; and unsurprisingly, the man had much better control over his chi than Valkar himself did. Although he had wronged her, he was still her master, and her his slave, and the slaver lord would make sure to fulfill his duties regarding her.

"You don't get to touch her." He said threateningly. "And I don't know why you need this boat specifically; if you really need to find this Yuwen Fortune, I suggest you get your own boat and not disturb us. As for who we ar-"

There was no was Nee was going to let Valkar handle this, so she cut him off after quickly rebooting her brain to overclocked mode. "We're lovers." She said, forcing the tremble out of her voice and making it sound as convincing as possible. "I just... have, well, indecent fantasies at times, stranger, so we act them out at times." She closed her eyes, making herself blush prettily at the hooded man, lying through her teeth. "There's nothing illegal with lovers enjoying each other, is there?"




Though not far away, Hyuna was pretty sure they couldn't see her as they spoke, Razul and Yuwen. She had wandered around aimlessly, wondering exactly how to advance with her life when she stumbled across Yuwen sitting with his horse on a flotation device in the river; and she illusioned herself to mix in with the background, not wanting to deal with her old friend just now, If anything, she just wanted to pretend he never existed at all; or at least just escape and leave all this behind. Not like they'd miss her, let alone remotely being able to find her. It would be easy to just escape and never again look back on her times with the Great Guild. Only Yamato could have a chance of chasing her, by flying, but he wouldn't be able to see her if she made herself invisible and hid as he flew past, would he?

It was somewhat of a shame, but Hyuna didn't want to deal with this anymore. She felt that her mind was weak and even more unstable than it usually was, although she was unable to really pinpoint the source of it- the soul of the necromanced bird filling the depths of her mind; learning her psyche before trying to make any actions.

Nothing could have prepared her for hearing directly from the person she once idolized that she had fucked up. She felt the rage building up, and once again the image of impaling Yuwen mercilessly in the most painful of ways flashed through her mind, before the muscles in her body began tightening for the killing move. In a fit of desperation, she channeled her anger into a burst of air, completely ignoring the stealth she had, bursting into the air to keep her safely out of range of Razul and Yuwen before she didn't something potentially permanent. Grudgingly, Hyuna knew that she didn't want to kill him... just yet at least, but the images flitting through her mind were certainly a marvel to look at, giving her a darkly satisfied rush. The spear girl ended up a few blocks away from where she had been, almost directly in front of a run down orphanage, one of the children that had wandered to the window, glanced at her curiously. Blood still dripped from her hands, giving her a grotesque look, mixed with her slightly unsettling dark scowl. Posted on the wall of the orphanage building was a poster, looking for a renowned daughter of a more northern nobleman.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Ann'Razul Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Nulix
"Wait, looking for a key?!" Yuwen asked, the connection forming in his head. "In that ghost village the Hooded Villain warned Suiken about something... a group that was after us, after the key!" He exclaimed, raising up on the wooden flotation device - too fast in fact, causing it to topple over and him to collapse into the river. After a moment of disappearing beneath the waves he sprung up again onto the side-walk. "Can you still fight?" He asked as his hands moved to his blades. He turned to the direction they heard the sound and swallowed. "Because if that's more of them... we may be in trouble."

***

"You don't get to touch her," The human male who had swooped in with an axe to grab the girl hissed. "And I don't know why you need this boat specifically; if you really need to find this Yuwen Fortune, I suggest you get your own boat and not disturb us. As for who we ar-"

"We're lovers," The girl interrupted, her voice quivering. The Hood folded his arms at the words, his expression a mixture of disbelief and bemusement - if only they could see it. "I just... have, well, indecent fantasies at times, stranger, so we act them out at times. There's nothing illegal with lovers enjoying each other, is there?"

"Right," The Hooded Villain began, cracking his neck and loosening his arms, as though psyching himself up for another attack. "Firstly, I can touch anyone I want, brother," He began fearlessly. "And secondly, I'm aware this is a slaving vessel. Seeing as I doubt Captain Jensu here is intelligent or wealthy enough to run such an operation and the half-breed seems to lack interest other than fighting the master mind behind this little trade would have to be you."

He began to pace the deck, his steps follow almost the exact same rout as they had during his monologue days earlier. "Now I don't like fighting. It's a lot of work and it's very messy. If you take me to Fortune there doesn't have to be a fight, and we can all go our separate ways." He paused at the end of the deck, looking out to the river beyond. He'd kill them regardless, free the girl. Typical hero business, but there was no need to expand upon that until the time was right. "What do you say?" The Hooded Villain questioned, turning around. "You don't want to fight me. It's much healthier to be my friend than my enemy."

***

"I didn't even know he was still alive let alone in the bloody province," The opposite officer replied before sitting cross-legged opposite his partner. "And no, filing jobs are not for me. This is nice - getting sent to police the provinces," He chuckled. "Beats the army, anyhow."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
"Right," The Hooded Villain began, making the slave girl narrow her eyes in frustration; she's been too shaken up and hurt to lie at full capacity right now, and she was certain the man standing in front of them had seen through her. She, instead of retorting, decided prudently to listen to see what the current adversary had to say, keeping a careful ear out for vital information. Meanwhile Valkar flipped his axe in the air one-handedly before catching it by the cloth-wrapped handle as the hooded man folded his arms. He didn't know exactly, what Nee was trying to accomplish by going the pacifist route, but the slaver lord knew that this man had to die; too haughty and proud otherwise. And he was sure Tiamat would be aiding him in the attack, the beast in plated armor gave off the aura of being... utterly furious, despite being helmeted.

It was tense, that's for sure. Valkar set the girl down on the deck and pushed he a ways behind him, hopefully out of the fight, and also hopefully, so that she wouldn't get any stupid ideas and try to stop the fight again. The villain himself looked as if he was preparing for another attack as he spoke. "First, I can touch anyone I want, brother." That sentence made Nee release something akin to a squeak, before she forcefully kept it down by yanking on the chain of her collar. If Valkar and Tiamat couldn't handle him, would that mean he'd do... that to her? Valkar doing it was already bad and harrowing enough; a total stranger would probably be too much for even her to handle. She started shivering, almost violently. "And secondly, I'm aware this is a slaving vessel. Seeing as I doubt Captain Jensu here is intelligent or wealthy enough to run such an operation and the half-breed seems to lack interest other than fighting, the mastermind behind this little trade would have to be you."

To be honest, it didn't take that much to figure out that Valkar was a slaver lord, if you were given a list of suspects with is name as one of the options. He was rich; he flaunted it and used money almost carelessly, and he was far from a nice person. He smirked at the hooded man, listening to his words. There'd be some special pleasure in eliminating him, wouldn't there? The man then began to walk around a predetermined path, and Valkar shifted position to keep the distance between the man and Nee constant, somehow sensing her fear of him.

"Now, I don't like fighting." The hooded man said. "It's a lot of work, and it's very messy." With a short pause, and Nee made sure to listen especially well so she could detect the subtext behind his speech. "If you take me to Fortune, there doesn't have to be a fight, and we can all go our separate ways." This set off Nee's mental alarms in the same way Jensu's statement about handing the slaves to a beast-man associate had. She couldn't quite pinpoint why she got this feeling, but she had to tell Valkar, now supporting the combat option. Because she was absolutely certain that he'd fight, and try to kill Valkar, which upon success, would ruin the reason why she'd been suffering so much in the first place; ruining the plot she had laid out for Valkar to take once she made him change his ways... not to mention the fear that he'd touch her again. She clutched the sheet closer to her. "What do you say" He spun around dramatically. "You don't want to fight me. It's much healthier to be my friend than my enemy."

Before anyone else could react, Nee piped up in a hard and cold voice, glaring daggers at the hooded man. "He's lying."

It was simple, and yet it made it certain that a fight would most definitely break out. Nee then turned to Jensu and shrugged apologetically. "Sorry, Captain." She murmured. "But there are things that matter more than a ship..."

Valkar nodded at Nee, once again somewhat... if anything, proud of her skills at reading people. And he gritted his teeth, knowing there was only one way to resolve this; the brutal death of a certain hooded fire chi user. He looked over at Tiamat, who most likely was raring to go for the kill, and said, "It'll be fun to see him bleed out, Tiamat. Let's end this, already."

The slave lord than, with his axe, swung in up upward motion, fast enough that it was almost impossible to dodge entirely; aiming straight between the legs of the hooded man. Just in case he somehow dodged it, Valkar, with a hot hand, punched forward at the man's throat, and then quickly followed up the initial cut with a wide slash this time, horizontally, while keeping a forward momentum so that trying to avoid the attack by stepping back would be pointless. Nee, knowing that the hooded man was strong, but also knowing that there was no way she'd let him lay a hand on her, decided to join in with what little she could, calculating the angle in her head before swinging the chain leash of her collar at the enemy, in a way that'd make it wrap around his ankle and hold him in place with a high probability of success.




Changing her appearance slightly, Hyuna decided to head into the orphanage. Why was the little boy staring at her so intently? Was he also planning on killing her? She needed to confront this; to find out why everyone was out to get her; to make her miserable, even a total stranger, a little orphan boy. Whoever he was, he'd pay for plotting against her. Hyuna wouldn't just let it pass, wanting to punish someone after having her spirit brought down further by someone who was supposed to be at her side. Goddamned Fortune.

The boy was still there when she burst into the hall, glaring at him, with her spear in hand. She was going to drive it through his stupid orphan throat; she'd slay him and move on to other parts of the city where people might be against her. She was stopped by a relatively simple phrase.

"You look like me."

That shocked Hyuna enough to not instantly murder him. "Whadd'you mean?"

The boy looked up at her, maybe about six or seven years old and already almost as tall as her. Hyuna frowned at that fact, but listened anyways. "You look lonely. Unliked by people 'round you. Like me."

She was lonely? Was that what all this anguish inside of her was; this growing empty feeling? Was it because she was lonely? She thought this over, following Razul's advice and not just slaying him, instead trying to use her brain to figure this out. If she really was lonely, it'd answer a lot of questions; why she's been resenting Master lately, why she hates Yuwen so much. But on the other hand, even if she was lonely, knowing the feelings inside her won't solve them; the others don't like her anyways. So there was no point in even trying to understand it. She just, to put it simply, didn't belong in the guild.

"So, why are you lonely, kid?"

The kid looked into her eyes soulfully. "Cuz I can do this." He put his hands together and started chanting something in a whole other tongue, sounding more like demons jabber than anything else; and a green glow was there as something akin to the spirits she saw back in the cemetery slowly clawed its way out of the ground. It looked really weak, but the chi behind it was clear. Necromancy. "I didn't want this power." The boy explained. "Nuh uh. And the other kids hate me, say that I'm a monster and unnatural. They say I should not exist."

Hyuna herself was put off by the necromancy.... but on the other hand, it wasn't his choice, was it? He never wanted the power in the first place; he just had it... Like herself. Hyuna didn't want to be stupid, but she was, and that put her at odds with the entire guild. She let out a bitter sigh.

"This's got nothin' do do with me." Hyuna said roughly. "I don't care."

The kid then sat down on the dirty floor. "I told you so you would know there's another lonely person." He explained, as if it was utterly obvious. "So you'd cheer up a little bit."

The spear girl didn't know if she was annoyed or not, but she abruptly stood up, sudden inspiration. She sported a wicked, wide smile that showed off her teeth. "Got an idea." She said. "So the other kids won't be so scared of you anymore."

She began going over the plan.

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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Infuriatingly, the hooded chi-user continued his maddening acrobatics from before, leaping up into the air as the two fighters converged on him and leaving behind a blast of flames that forced both Cha'Valkar and Amanhã to stop short. The scowl etched into the form of Amanhã's thin, scarred lips intensified in its vehemence. This was a foe against whom rash, rage-driven attacks would not suffice-- she would have to bide her time, watch closely, wait for the most opportune moment to put this worthless chi using coward in the ground, and seize upon it.

Unfortunately, that meant having to endure further inane talk, as the chi-user began making more noise-- it seemed to be the only thing he did other than set fire to shit for no reason. He seemed to honestly believe he could take not only her, but Cha'Valkar as well-- he attempted to threaten them into adhering to his will, tried to convince them it was 'healthier to be his friend than his enemy'. I have no interest in making you an enemy or a friend-- just dead, Amanhã growled silently as she stood by silently watching and waiting, fury and violence threatening to bubble up to the surface and disintegrate her rapidly faltering veneer of control and patience.

Fortunately, she did not have to wait long. The 'negotiation', if it could be called that, broke down, and Cha'Valkar attacked-- it had hardly been the most opportune moment, but for all intents and purposes, it now was, and the battle resumed. Even as she swung her greatsword in an arc above the heads of the slaver and the chi-user, well aware of the latter's propensity for jumping to avoid attacks, Amanhã also tugged her longsword from its sheath and used it to feint another horizontal slash in case the chi-user dodged to the side. Rather than continue the slash, Amanhã instead threw her large bulk at the chi-user in a six hundred and fifty pound shoulder slam, seeking to batter him to the ground so that she or Cha'Valkar could deliver the finishing blow and shut him the fuck up for good.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Nulix
Jensu watched tensely at the wheel, Mohan placing a hand on her shoulder for comfort as the trio of psychopaths talked. Suddenly Nee stepped away from Valkar and turned to her. "Sorry, Captain." She murmured. "But there are things that matter more than a ship..."

From the middle of the deck at the mast the hooded figure stood perfectly still as he waited for a response. The slaver glanced at the half-breed with greeted teeth. "It'll be fun to see him bleed out, Tiamat." He began, readying his axe. "Let's end this, already."

"Ha!" The Hooded Villain exclaimed in almost childlike excitement. "Let's fight." Before the words had even let his mouth the salver was at his feet, swinging the axe in an uppercut. With a burst of fire from his hands the villain propelled himself to the right of the blow, only to dodge backward again at another blow, this one of a burning fist hitting him in the chest. The villain was blown back from the blow, a quick duck flinging him away from the second swing of the axe. The Hooded villain coughed violently for a moment before laughing as he backed up further toward the railing of the deck. "Come on!" He dared, raising his hands to gesture for the man. "Let's see fire fight fire."

Suddenly a chain swung around his leg. The Hooded Villain glanced down at the entangled metal before spotting its source. He looked up to see the slave-girl who had come forward and thrown her chain and gave her a sorry smile. "Are you jok-" He began before ducking down at a swing of the great-sword of the giant who had come by the slavers side. He slid to the side and rose before attempting to dodge once more as the half-breed shoulder slammed him, and act that ironically half-worked as the villain managed to get most of his body out of the way. But impact still hit his side and he went skidding to the bow's railing, the chain still wrapped around his leg causing Nee to get tugged with him. As he slid uneven black orbs flung out of his cloak, at least a dozen rolling across the deck. The villain quickly grabbed Nee and held her under his arm before flowing sparks forward, igniting the fuse of the orbs as they made contact. Mini-explosives, orbs filled with blasting powder.

With Nee held tight he jumped onto the railing and began to run along the narrow foot-space around the two foes as they dealt with the bombs beneath their feet. Around half-way down the deck he lept up and landed by the wheel, immedietly punching Jensu in the face and sending the goblin toppling over the railing and overboard into the river. "Sorry!" The villain spat, going to the wheel and violently diverting their route. The ship, which had just emerged from the trees, began to turn left instead of right, heading away from the lights of the distant city in the mountains and instead to the large lake Jiefong's river eventually led to - the lake of fire.

The ship began to rock as it was swept up in the current, picking up speed toward the mammoth space of water that stretched on into the distance. The villain began to laugh as the ship rocked, before suddenly getting punched in the back of the head onto the wheel. He turned to see Mohan before him. "Let's try fire and ice," The Oni spat, sending a blast of frost at the man, who slid to the side - not far enough though as the villain's left fore-arm was frozen in a block of ice. The Human Hood immedietly punched Mohan backward with the icy club of an arm, and punched him again and again until he hit the railing of the Milkweed's stern. With another kick he sent the man overboard before smashing the arm down on the wood, shattering the ice. "Come on!" He yelled, grabbing Nee by the collar and leaping them off of the wheel.

As the Milkweed entered the rocky, open water of the lake the Hooded Villain landed on it's mast, his clawed boots digging into the wood as he began to climb up it further, still trying to keep the Nee tightly beneath his arm. If she fell she could threaten to rip him off entirely, the chain still connected to his leg. "Alright!" He called to his still living enemies below. "Let's see how well you can swim!" With his boots keeping hooked on the mast and with his left hand holding Nee the Hooded Villain extended his right straight out. After a moment a jet of fire began to flow out of his palm, its sheer power and speed begging to force the ship downward, toppling it over from the mast. "I'll still accept a surrender!" The villain spat...

***

"Woah, you see that Tuying?" The officers partner exclaimed as he focused through a look-glass. He handed the device to his approaching partner. Through it on the nearby lake of fire outside Jiefong a small junk was rocking chaotically, a stream of fire shooting out it's mast at an insane speed. "A chi users making that entire thing unstable," The officer commented as he hoped on his horse. "We've gotta stop 'em."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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"Woah," Tuying commented, quickly scarfing down the rest of his roasted rabbit bowl as he sat up. He then took a brief moment to stretch out his legs. "These perps are getting bolder and bolder, I tell ya..." Tuying shook his head. "Only helps us get 'em to a nice, cozy cell sooner," he smirked, somewhat arrogantly.

"Oh hey. Lu-Tan, you ever see my new import from Sudea?" Tuying asked, before whistling loudly. Clopping not far beyond the campsite, was a strange creature, similar to a horse, but with more...lumps. "This one of those camel things you hear about down there. Pretty sick, right? They say they're faster than horses, y'know? Wanna find out?" Tuying asked, immediately taking off in a rush on the humped beast.

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Character Portrait: Captain Jensu Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
Coughing viciously as her collar was grabbed, Nee was, once again, helpless as she was taken by another one much stronger than she was- this time the hooded man, and terror struck her. He was obviously a villain, since killing was of no consequence to him... and villains were apt to do villainous things. Like rape. And once was more than enough for a life time; despite her powerlessness. But what could she do? It seemed that impossible acrobatic feats were this man's forte, were they not? And he had the gall to grab an obviously terrified girl so roughly? Nee forced the emotional side of her mind away from the logical side, but failed, and continued to tremble helplessly; whimpering.

Meanwhile, a strange protective instinct overcame Valkar. For some strange reason, he really wanted to see that Nee'd be safe and sound and beside him. Not that this feeling was remotely romantic- it's simply friendship, after all, and guilt compounded even more when he saw the girl's pathetic mewls of fear when the hooded villain took hold of her; knowing that everything about her situation was entirely his fault. And for the first time, Valkar seriously felt the desire to atone for all the terrible things he did. Or at the very least, gain Nee's forgiveness. The threat of becoming a slave was too much, after all. Valkar absently looked to the side; the snow oni and the goblin captain were entirely useless after all. First of all, there was the threat of the explosives. Valkar lunged at them before they could go off and tossed them towards the hooded man, after giving Nee a little nod of the head.

The nod was effective in snapping Nee out of her post-traumatic stress reveries as a single thought echoed in her mind. Valkar is fighting to save me. His good side is starting to surface again. And that was enough to make the girl start to struggle again, angrily fighting against the hooded man's tight grasp on her body, just barely keeping the sheet around her as well as her modesty. "Alright!" The man called down, looking as if he enjoyed the superiority. "Let's see how well you can swim!" A stream of fire extended from his arm, with Valkar and Amanhã both making timely dodges, but making the ship undergo a nauseating downwards lurch. "I'll still accept a surrender!"

Nee closed her eyes tightly, and when she opened them again, she was in a state of force calm, and ruthless anger. "You see what you've done, Valkar." She said darkly. "What you might lose. Do you regret your actions yet? And you..." She turned to the hooded man. "Surrender, stranger?" She muttered in an icy tone. "Stop pretending you have the moral high ground here. A young girl was just raped, and you're holding tightly to her body, with naught but a thin sheet wrapped around her." She gestured at the wind. "And if you aren't careful, you'll expose my tender spots for all to see! You're attacking an innocent captain, destroying her ship, and yet you can claim the moral high ground?" She tsked and forcefully drove her hand in the man's crotch. It was only right that, after having her own tender spot ravaged, that she destroy another's. With a cool smile and boring eyes, Nee squeezed with all her might, before quickly unraveling the chain and leaping down from the mast.

Valkar was about to leap into the air, relieved that the explosives wouldn't hit Nee, obviously being hit hard by her words, and once again knowing deep down that he should have just been her bodyguard from the beginning. Before he could go and attack the hooded man, Nee clutched at him with a frosty glare.

"You're an idiot, Valkar." She said. "He's primarily fire, and we're surrounded by water. And everyone in the Me-Hyung family is taught to swim, you know."

There was a pregnant pause. "Damnit," The slaver lord muttered, then turned to Tiamat, who was already trading blows with the hooded man. "Tiamat, if you can't swim, I'll carry you to shore. We can deal with this villain another time."

Nee, finally realizing that things were going her way again, put the cheerful mask back on; not needing her true colors out for now. "Thanks, Valkar, for fighting for me. I knew you still cared!"

With a knowing giggle, and a sharp glance, the girl wrapped the chains around her body and the sheet to keep it from unraveling, and leapt into the water, with Valkar following after, looking back and ready to help Tiamat swim, just in case she decided to follow. He then turned his gaze to the slave girl, and kept an eye on her just in case the hooded man tried to do something else. In a last ditch effort, Valkar placed his hands on the stern of the ship while afloat, and used his chi to light it on fire, the flame quickly spreading to the deck and mast. Immediately after that, it seemed the half-ashura made her decision, crashing into the water with a heavy splash, still not saying a single word. Valkar took hold of her arm and they began swimming away from the burning Milkweed.

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
The hooded chi-user continued his infuriating(ly effective) combination of jumping around and never shutting the fuck up, managing to consistently evade a gruesome demise on the end of either Amanhã's greatsword or Cha'Valkar's axe. His pointless taunts did nothing but sharpen the potent edge of Amanhã's vehemence, fuelled by rage but guided by precise, experienced skill. She'd have this son of a bitch's goddamn head-- she'd divorce his skull of the skin and then wear it on one of her pauldrons. Some really grotesque shit like that.

Unfortunately, physics had other ideas: the boat was beginning to burn again. This damn tub spends more time on fire than it does on water, Amanhã spat silently as the flames began to consume the ship, burning almost as furiously as her burgeoning wrath as she realised she would not be able to murder the chi-user at this point-- not without also sinking to the depths in a burning ship, which wasn't high on the bounty hunter's list of life goals at this juncture. Cha'Valkar and the slavey thing had evidently decided it was high time to disembark from the junk-- she noted as much even as she was once again embroiled in combat with the chi-user, and figured, Goddammit, I'm about to drown again, aren't I? Except this time, all she had to potentially help her was a slaver who'd once tried to capture her and a tiny girl of whom ten would probably still weigh half of Amanhã's own bulk, so the bounty hunter figured this time, the threat of drowning was a lot more real.

Except not really. The slave lord turned to Amanhã as she launched another attack that forced the chi-user back and granted her a moment of reprieve to hear his words. "Tiamat, if you can't swim, I'll carry you to shore. We can deal with this villain another time." Amanhã raised an eyebrow-- carry me to shore? She couldn't possibly conceive of why the slaver would ever bother even trying, but then, her options were anything but diverse here, and the chi-user had already retreated to the wheel of the ship, leaving the three open to depart. It left a bad taste in Amanhã's mouth to have to retreat from battle, especially against this cheating whelp, but her pride was certainly not nearly stubborn enough to compel her to risk drowning just to pursue the fight further.

As Cha'Valkar and the slave girl delved into the waters below, the bounty hunter sighed. Well, I figure there's about a ninety per cent chance I'm about to drown, so here goes. She followed after, crashing into the water and doing what she could to at least stay afloat. It wasn't much until Cha'Valkar grabbed her arm and began swimming toward shore, toting the massive half-Ashuran along, and she continued to do at least her part-- partially out of pride, and partially because she was six hundred and fifty pounds of flesh and armour and she didn't want to risk the possibility that Cha'Valkar couldn't tug her along himself.

It was really goddamn hard, lugging the gigantic half-ashura, but Valkar didn't really want to just abandon her- he had dragged her into this whole thing after all. And he was gladdened at least that the burden on his arm, hooked on the giant's armor, was spared the whole weight; she was also trying to help propel them. Up ahead was the surprisingly nimble Nee who was easily ahead of them both, her sheet billowing with a strange sort of grace, held in place by the chains from her collar. At least it was a lake, and not a sea, though, because every so often the red slaver would accidentally gulp up water while swimming, and salt water's taste and potentially toxic qualities were most probably undesirable. And they had quite a length to swim. The slave girl took a glance back at the ship, and saw it still up, with the flames somehow quenched- was it, perhaps, that the hooded man was simply an unfair creation, meant to be invincible no matter what? The only thing that did potential lasting damage was when she destroyed his seed-makers, and it was with grim satisfaction when she figured he wouldn't be impregnating anyone anytime soon.

The girl also wondered why, exactly, not just go to shore alongside the river, and walk to Jiefong, other than the fact that her sheet was white and wet, and propped against her skin like that would make it, inevitably, see-through. And despite her callous true nature, she really didn't want anyone ogling her anytime soon. So she directed a question to Tiamat, who'd looked somehow, even more ready to battle than she thought possible, against the hooded man, almost as if they knew each other from a previous confrontation.

"Um, Tiamat." She asked, faking a nervous tone in her voice. "Who, exactly is that man? The more information we have, the better for next time we see him."

Grim thoughts occupied Amanhã's mind as she swam along, aided by Cha'Valkar, the slave girl making swift headway up ahead. Mostly thoughts of the extremely gruesome fate that awaited a certain hooded, leaping, shrieking chi-user-- a fate that consisted variably of dismemberment, castration, death by multitudinous contusions, lacerations, internal damage, each precisely aimed to prolong his suffering whilst minimising the chance of him dying before the torment was complete. Amanhã had not tortured anybody in quite a long while-- these days, she was paid simply to kill rather than punish or extract information-- but she figured the chi-user was as good a subject as any to polish her skills on.

They proceeded in silence toward the shore, Amanhã doing her part to move them along rather than simply letting Cha'Valkar drag her along, until the slave girl slowed to a gentler stroke and the two of them caught up to her. "Um, Tiamat..." the child began to question of her for some infernal reason, sounding rightly anxious about venturing the question. "Who exactly is that man? The more information we have, the better for next time we see him."

I'm trying to swim here, not have a pow-wow over combat strategy, the bounty hunter would have retorted vehemently if she didn't think just keeping silent would send that message just as clearly. And anyway-- we? The hell with we. The next time that chi-user came screaming and leaping into her life-- which he probably would, if the universe's sense of humour was to be held accountable-- he was hers, and she'd make him pay dearly for... well, for being a flaming dick in general.

In more ways than one, that was.

Silence. Valkar had a bit of a twisted smirk- the girl still expected the giant to answer, almost naively. So after taking a particularly large breath, starting to feel the wear and tear of towing along Tiamat, he answered, "We'll talk about it once we're on land." He gestured back at Tiamat, who was paddling along with an almost religious fervor. "She- she doesn't exactly talk."

The slave girl, with a little frown, shrugged as best as she could while swimming, and saw, up ahead, very faintly two figures on shore. Who, exactly, would have been so interested in watching a burning ship? She saw a faint glint- was it perhaps, binoculars, the glass shining in the fading light? Most people would just come by, and possibly try to swim over to rescue anyone, or and this was more likely, just watch and enjoy the spectacle of the flames and the wood. So, that ruled out normal people. Her second thought was, perhaps, other slavers, waiting for the quarry to reach the shore in order to slap on collars? She would have chuckled at that if she could- the slavers had no idea who they'd meet, if it was them. Another possibility, however, was police. And, since she'd visited Jiefong a few times, the police force was particularly strong there, making this another possibility. She struggled to remember the name of a particularly renown cop, but the name escaped her. She figured he'd never be significant, anyways.

Two main possibilities. If it were slavers, the risk was pretty null, since not many amateur slave groups could stand up to Valkar and Tiamat's strength. So, she'd prepare for the possibility of it being the cops. The cops which, most likely, not know who was the victim here. So a plot formed in her head. She looked back at the two warriors and told them in a hushed tone that there may be trouble ahead, and to prepare in case of a fight. "And, let me go up first, to talk to whoever's there." She then scrutinized Valkar suspiciously, thinking that perhaps he'd be possibly recognizable, since he is a major slaver lord, after all. "Activate your chi, Valkar." She said, and the man did, looking slightly confused. The next second, Nee closed in and shoved his hand- flames and all- into his face, burning the skin as he flailed, almost letting go of Tiamat in the process. But, sure enough, his face was now unrecognizable at all, even with a description. She considered burning off his hair, too, just in case.

"Now you don't look like Valkar anymore." Nee said sweetly, and continued going over a plan to get out of this relatively easily. Valkar ducked under water, and shot a glare at the girl, who gave him a sharp look, and the slaver grudgingly admitted under his breath that it was a good idea, although he'd have liked a warning beforehand.

Eventually, and it was confirmed that they were cops, Nee took the initiative after untangling the chain from her body, and made herself cry; eyes puffy and cheeks red, and deciding to let the sheet slip off her slender body just enough to show the bruising on her shoulder, and made sure they could also see the still healing burn mark. "Of- Officers! Th... thank god... I... I'm Nee, Nee Me-Hyung, kidnapped by slavers, and um..." She had purposely stressed her surname, making sure the officers knew that if they didn't make her happy, in this case, happiness being to be able to continue travelling with Valkar, she'd inform her father and have him do something about the situation, gathering other nobles as allies to rally against the system.

She started trembling. "This man saw what was going on and rescued me... and the half-ashura had a change of heart and helped him save me. I don't... don't know where the slaver went- he had a hood on, officers, he escaped, so please, go after him and punish him!" Valkar then came up, and took off his new faded suit's top and placed it over Nee's thin shoulders, with a protective pat on the head.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Ann'Razul Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Millie Kiyare Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Terra Himene Character Portrait: Rumelis Morende Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Nulix
Officer Painji glanced to his partner Ten-Fists with a raised eyebrow. "You're saying you were attacked by a hooded... villain?" He questioned, writing the description of the perp down on his mini-scroll pad. Tuying glanced over Painji's shoulder to read what he had written. Guy with hood was all that was on the page. "Well alright then," Painji nodded to the trio of clear villains. He wettened the tip of his quill with his tongue before scribbling down another few lines and closing the pad. "You three have a nice day," He gave an awkward smile at the trio. "Beautiful wife you've got there. Brave... very progressive choice." He gave a thumbs up. "Good heart. Have fun with your daughter."

Valkar gave an evil look as he, Nee, and the half-breed trudged away. Painji placed his pipe back in his mouth and puffed some smoke. "So we're gonna stalk the scum, right?" He questioned, looking over to his partner as they watched the clear criminals leave and wander off toward the city-gates...

***

Behind black-bars the Great Guild members were locked away in the farthest corner of the noble district's police base. Snow melted through the grass-overgrowing their above-ground window, fresh water dripping in from the soil as the night raced on and faded into a new day. Dawn peaked over the green-land far below the mountains, and in the cell the guild members were still gathered together, weaponless and without contact from the outside - the trio of guards watching them remaining still like status...

Suddenly a door opened, and entering the maze of cells a tall man entered. "Breakfast," He spat, throwing some bread at them before exiting again, the cell-door locking behind him...

***

"Stop," Yuwen chuckled, half-asleep as he tried to push the large, black dog away from him as it licked his face. "Stop, babe-stop it," He laughed, his eyes slowly fluttering open to face the animal before him. "Of course," Yuwen muttered, pushing the creature off before standing wearily. He looked around the hotel room they had gotten in the noble quarter. Quite expensive, quite lavish - and now completely in the wrecks and filled with animals. He looked at himself in the mirror in horror. His hair was puffed up and messy, and several bottles of empty wine polluted the turned over sofa he'd collapsed on.

Yuwen glanced to the room's bed in confusion, where next to a lion Millie was sleeping soundly. "Wake up!" He called, grabbing her quickly and pulling her away from the creature. "We went to a zoo last night, didn't we?" He questioned, vaguely remembering how his night of trying to entertain a child had escalated to the craziness he awoke to...

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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Suiken looked remarkably calm for all that had occurred last night. He graciously chomped on the stale, distasteful bread, in a thoughtful manner before reminiscing, "Well this isn't the worst arrest I've faced..."

***

"You all take care now," Tuying waved goodbye at the family, grinning friendlily. "We'll catch that hooded fiend for ya." As soon the two officers had moved away form the scum of the Earth, Tuying nodded in agreement with Painji. "Hell yeah, we're gonna track these dirtbags," he stated, brandishing a freshly brewed boiling cup of tea with one hand and flipping on a pair of sunglasses in the other. "And I know the perfect incognito vehicle," he muttered, drawing a scroll from his right pocket, "Remember Crazy Ko's Rickshaw Services?"

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Rann
"You'll need clothes." Valkar stated plainly, once they passed the guards. Nee had given both Tiamat and Valkar urgent looks once their backs were turned to the two cops, and hopefully her message was conveyed that the cops most likely didn't fall for her act. Nee of course made sure to memorize the two cops as best as she could while describing the appearance of the hooded villain; not entirely sure how sincere the cops were, after all. And they apparently either ignored that she was a noble's daughter, or we simply didn't hear it. Considering the nature of Yune society, and Nee's own cynicism, she knew it was probably the former; feigning ignorance made things more convenient later on, after all. Instead, they were probably intentionally mistaken as a family... a thought that made Valkar shoot the two cops an evil glare.

Either way, Nee knew for sure that they weren't in the clear just yet. And she hoped that the two warrior companions also realized it. Not that she expected any kind of answer from Tiamat. Nee, knowing the cops were somewhere behind them, asked in a loud voice as she still kept the sheet wrapped around her. "The slaver... the man who raped me." She let a few tears out and trembled even more. "It was scary... I couldn't even- I couldn't even see his face when he did it, the hood..."

She made a miserable sniffle. "I can't marry now, huh? He, he hurt me so bad, and I was begging, begging, and yet-"

She was more or less making a passive aggressive dig at Valkar's actions, wanting him to feel bad for what he's done. And it worked, as Valkar somewhat shook. He instead, hesitantly, patted her on the shoulder in a bad attempt at comforting the girl, now entirely sure if the emotions behind her words were serious or an act. "I'm sorry." He whispered. "For letting it happen, Nee."

Nee, feeling vindication inside of her, lead the trio down a winding bunch of detours and side paths, hopefully letting them know that they're being stalked. If they didn't get the message by now, then they were both complete idiots. Aiming an eager smile at both Valkar and Tiamat, she ducked into the store, with one of Valkar's money pouches in hand and quickly changed into an ornate kimono, an assortment of ribbons tied together on the back of her obi, in alternating white and pink, and a light blue fabric for the main part of the kimono itself. The girl let it snug just above her neck, hiding the collar from sight, and leaving the needed amount of coins on the counter. The chain still trailed down her body though, clinking uncomfortably if she wasn't careful with her step. The girl let out a demoralized sigh, the reality hitting her that, she'd have to live with this chain getting in the way for the rest of her life- too strong for small weapons to remove, and unwilling to let someone use a full swing of an axe to try and split it; or a blast of fire chi, or any kind of chi really, that was something sobering and depressing all at once. No matter how old she got; how she recovered from this ordeal, she'd still have to live with it.

Its here for life.

She ignored the look from the slaver lord as she exited the shop, unsure exactly, if it was lecherous or appreciative. In any case, she felt much more at ease. Valkar then subtly gave her a blade to attatch to the end of the chain, muttering to her; "Once we're in the clear, I'll teach you to use it." Not exactly eager to learn how to fight, Nee nodded brightly anyways; might as well get some semblance of self defense.

The trio continued their aimless walk when they saw a glimpse of an ashen-winged Tengu, a black horse, and three humans all together, making for a strange menagerie. Valkar scratched his head and shrugged, and they kept walking, making their way, hopefully, to the north exit of the city. They had to get out as soon as possible, after all, and hopefully get in contact with her father before it was too late.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Rann
"Your family was based in Leiya, correct?" Painji asked, and Hyun nodded calmly, trying to drown out Orion's hostilities. She'd always liked Painji, viewed him as somewhat of the responsible figure for Yuwen to bounce his fun and games off of, when they were younger. If things went a good way, maybe she'd even have fallen in love with him. But of course the way things are now, there's no was Hyuna could love anyone, right? She subconsciously rubbed the treats in her pack. There's no way she's in love with anyone right now. And Muna only crossed her mind because of some evil coincidence, right? Completely haphazardly, nothing to do with love at all.

Painji made an almost uneasy glance as he made his condolences about Leiya, but was relieved she made it out alright. Hyuna nodded her head humbly; just like she did years ago whenever meeting the older man, with a great nostalgic feeling ebbing through her. "Thanks." She said. "It was rough, but my family pulled through. My brother's dealing with the loss of his lover... but it'll work out in the end."

She then heard the other man, in a stifling tone, that they were only asking where they'd come from, in Jiefong. Hyuna quickly addressed him, getting up from her bow. "We're just visiting Jiefong, before heading back to Leiya." Hyuna said clearly. "Buying more materials for my father to make maps with."




The trio was now standing at the northern gates of Jiefong. A while back, all three of them had noticed that they'd lost the trail of the two idiotic cops; and that was all for the better, of course. They were, presumably, safe from any pursuit, thankfully. And while Valkar and Tiamat were still going strong, Nee was getting visibly tired; still not used to physical activity. They still had quite the distance to go just yet, before trying to contact her father, Ying, as well as the second in command of Valkar's Empire, Moga'Torash. There was, presumably, a barnyard farther down the Yokai Road, where Valkar had put out the idea of resting there for the night, after paying the owners.

"Why are you even-" A languished yawn from Nee as she stretched her small body, blinking away the tiredness as best as she could. "Tiamat, you don't really have to stay around anymore..."

There was no answer, though; at least no wordless answer, from the half-Ashura. Valkar raised a curious eyebrow. As long as he'd known her, she'd never seemed to be the type to care about company, and always preferred being a lone wolf. He shared a look with Nee, the thought coming from him trying to say, "Maybe, Tiamat doesn't mind us as much as she says", while Nee simply opened her mouth and grumbled that she was exhausted.

Valkar moved to lift the girl up, but she instinctively shied away from him, shooting him a frightful glance; almost like a kicked puppy. This hurt Valkar a lot, and showed what he did to her, probably the first person he's cared about in a long time. He didn't really know why, but he enjoyed her company, and wants to keep her safe from now on. But, how, though, when she's too repulsed by his skin to even consider getting help from him? How could he regain her trust, and try to make amends for his mistake? With a defeated sigh, he took money out his pouch and showed it to Tiamat.

"Could you carry her?" He asked the giant. "...and please don't kill her, or anything."

Still without words, the half-ashura almost forcibly grasped at Nee and swung her up and over her shoulders; riding the half ashura almost piggy-back like. The girl snuggled herself against the helmet as best as she could; to try and secure herself, and rested her head against the cool metal, looking uncomfortably, yet grateful all the same.

And so, they began to leave Jiefong, once and for all, with the calculating girl finally allowing her burdened mind some rest, the slaver endlessly contemplating his sins with guilt and shame, and the half ashura, who may or may not mind the company as much as she'd verbally admit... not that'd she'd verbally say anything, if given the choice to stay silent.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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#, as written by Rann
Heading north was the plan, of course, Valkar thought to himself. Find some shelter to rest up- not even he and Tiamat could last forever with no breaks, of course. Then maybe send a message to Moga; get back in touch with the Empire. He'd have to also try to negotiate things with Ohano, the noble who'd wanted those goblins in the first place... hopefully he'd be able to conduct the negotation in a way that didn't hurt business. He glanced at the kimono-clad girl, resting on the shoulders of the giant blueish woman. Using her chi, it'd be an obvious asset. Keeping the noble from becoming riled up; making him stay calm and thus easier to manipulate."Well, let's get going, then." The slaver lord muttered, a hand gently on his burnt face. It really had hurt, hadn't it? But he still deserved it.

Nee, who still wasn't completely asleep heart coming heavy footsteps and with labored blinks, looked back and saw someone that looked kind of familiar. Very orange, though. She pointed her gaze at him, trying to force through her exhaustion to get the name.

Orion quickly leafed through the package of papers that were given to him by Brutus. According to him, the papers Orion held were the "Allfather of All Registration Papers" Orion had scoffed at his silly phrasing but still realized the potential they had. Looking up, he noticed a small group approaching and he quickly put the papers away.

Some gwanish clan, right? With a little frustrated noise, Nee hopped down from Tiamat's shoulders, in order to clear her thoughts. Who was this man, why was he so familar? With a gasp, Nee noticed her collar was showing just slightly through the kimono and hastily fixed it, before sending a sleepy smile at the man. "Uh... hello! Have we met before, sir?"

Orion crouched down so that he was at eye level with the small girl. Inspecting her facial structure and her clothes he was able to determine that she was of obvious noble birth. "I don't think we have, you're a bit too young for me to have known you. But there is a possibility that I may know your parents. Tell me child, which noble house are you from?"

The noble girl made a hesitant face at Valkar, who shrugged at her. Surely this man, in the slaver's point of view, couldn't take on himself and Tiamat at the same time... so there was really no threat. The girl then looked forward at the familiar-yet-unkown stranger with a charming grin, and a little curtsey. "Me-Hyung, sir; from Furoe." She was still puzzled though. What was the name of that clan, on the tip of her tongue but not quite. Frustrated, she asked; "And your clan? You are of Gwanish birth, yes?"

Orion smiled at the small girl's polietness, "You have a very keen eye. Yes I am of Gwanish birth, I'm of the Zhànshì clan of northern Gwan. Tell me child, Furoe is in the northern regions of Yune, am I correct?"

"Haraan Fields Province, to be precise." She felt a little satisfaction- on their most recent trip to Gwan, she had seen a few people of the clan in question- this stranger looked somewhat alike, sharing a few facial features. Could he be of use to her, for later on? That was a harder question. Subtly appraising him; heavily armored, with an ompossibly large and bulky bag, it can be assumed that this man is at the very least, powerful. As skilled as her own companions? Valkar and Tiamat were strong, definitely. But so was this man. He'd lose- since he's outnumbered, but therein still lies the fact that he'd do some damage before going down. At least he didn't seem hostile... it wouldn't hurt to get to know more about him; learn more about this potential pawn.

"So, if I may, um, what is your name? Where are you travelling to, sir?"

"Well, aren't you the nosey one. The name's Orion. I haven't been travelling to anywhere in particulure. Just a lot of wandering and a ton of searching. Been looking for members of the Yin family, seen any recently?"
Orion couldn't quite put his finger on it, but there was something off about this girl. Maybe it was her demenor, maybe it was the sheer amount of questions. Orion decided that he best watch his tounge and keep an on this child to make sure nothing too strange happens.

Yin Family? That made Nee scowl on the inside; that was one of the families that, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't push them into the role she'd wanted. It was a shame, because when they suddenly gained fortune and money- and it was still unknown to her exactly how they got that newfound cash so quickly- she had tried to pull them to her circle of allies, to no avail. Perhaps she could convince him to kill them, if that was what he was looking for. It would certainly help her family in their influence conquest. But it seemed this man was being more guarded now.. since he had specifically noted she was being nosey. "Only curious, sir." She said gracefully. "If you wish, you may call me Nee. The man here is Yalar'Hatten, also from Gwan, and this is Tiamat." She gestured at the giant sheepishly. "Um.. she's half ashura... obviously."

She fixated her gaze directly on this man, Orion, now. "...Last I heard of the Yin family was their Ukyo residing somewhere in Jiefong. Have you met with him, yet?"

Orion chuckled to himself, "The curious ones are always the first to die, just a common fact." Orion looked the the other two travellers, bodyguards perhaps, or maybe something else entierly. Something was clearly off with this group. Apparently Brutus wasn't the only one to know about Ukyo's presence in Jiefong. "Heh, I guess you could say that I met with him."

Valkar eyed the man carefully. Nee was being too open, too friendly with someone she didn't even know. Wasn't that what got her into the slavery in the first place? It wouldn't do well to underestimate her, Valkar knew that now, but she was still just a kid, essentially. She's too full of herself and her sense of invincibility, and that'll be her downfall, the slaver lord surmised quietly. He was tempted to knock out the man and just move on with their travels before the two cops caught up to them. But that would cause a ruckus- and it wasn't likely he'd follow them, anyways. Unfortunately, the little girl had other ideas. With a wide grin, she popped out a few coins from Valkar's pouch and showed it to Orion. "Let's get goi-" Valkar had tried to say, but Nee, not missing a beat, cut into his words with swift accuracy, like an arrow hitting someone in the throat through chinks in the armor.

"We can travel together, if you'd like, then." She beamed. "I can hire you to be a bodyguard for me, if you're just wandering. It should be easy coin, right?"

Best keep a potential pawn close, Nee thought. Never know when one might come in handy.

Setting

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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Amanhã trudged along, silently bearing the infinitesimal weight of the slave girl on her back: needless to say, she'd spoken nothing, and her helmet would have obscured the hard features of her face even if they had borne witness to any tangible expression of emotion. And though they had not-- even within the sanctity of the metal facade her mien remained callous and stony-- the little imbecile's words had... had an impact. They had provoked vexation. Uncertainty. Sudden dubiety. Why did she choose to linger on here? Sure, Cha'Valkar was paying her consistently, whether it was remuneration for toting around his little slave thing or for killing things that would otherwise have killed him, but... Amanhã found she could not ascertain that that was the sole justification for her continued accompaniment.

And she didn't like being uncertain about her actions.

I should just kill the both of them was, naturally, her first and most immediate solution to the quandary. Well, it was a sensible proposition, after all: if your company is presenting a perplexing situation, the swiftest path to resolution is probably to kill your company. Amanhã had found it an effective method, except that for one reason or another official authorities seemed to disagree with her choice of tactics-- some shit about 'unlawful murder' or some such asinine bullshit. Well, long story short, there was a certain reason Amanhã was no longer legally allowed to enter the Kingdom of Eoland, though that didn't hamper Illyria Kúr'êshii, among other unaffiliated half-Ashuran bounty hunters who had nothing to do with one Amanhã Tiamat.

Alas, she had little time to consider how to go about her ingenious solution to her problem, for no sooner had one irksome farce come to an end-- needless to say, that was in reference to the brief spectacle with those two idiot cops-- than another came to pass. Amanhã hardly even noticed when the little cretin removed herself from her back and leapt lightly to the ground, only realising yet another irritation was about to befall her when she noted that Cha'Valkar had fallen behind. She turned her head back toward him and his slave, and her eyes fell upon... someone new. Some buffoon with overly ornate armour and bizarrely bright violet hair. Naturally, the slave was making pointless small talk with the stranger, because clearly she was intent on delaying the journey as long as possible (well, that made sense-- even this peculiar runt of a human probably had little interest in expediting her journey to slavery).

Amanhã wasn't planning on standing by idly and waiting for long, but she didn't even really have to in the end: the girl wanted to hire the jackass with the violet hair to be their bodyguard using the slave lord's coin. In that case, Amanhã's presence was no longer necessary-- if the pair of them were going to start paying this new jackass to play bodyguard, she sure as hell wasn't gonna stick around with them for kicks. It's never been in my interest to idly linger about wasting time with other people without pay and without violence, she assured herself firmly, before deciding it was high time to put the whole quandary to rest for good. And so as the slave girl negotiated the details of hiring the jackass with the asinine hair, Amanhã turned, and simply continued walking toward the north gate. Easy and straightforward-- the way things were always supposed to be.

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Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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Orion stood to his full height and stared down at the small girl, "I may be a wanderer, but that doesn't mean I don't have a purpose. I'm not saying yes and I'm not saying no. I'll consider it, but first I have some minor business to attend to. Just a few loose ends that need to be tied. Shouldn't take to long, I'll give you my answer by the end of the hour. So if you'll excuse me I must be taking my leave." A small glint caught Orion's eye and he spotted the small symbolic lock of a slave collar around the little girl's neck. Well I'll be, so I was right, this girl is up to something. As Orion passed the Gwanish man Orion whispered, "It would be best to watch your back slaver, that's where the most lethal of attacks come from." Orion walked down the road and began whistling a quiet war hymn as he went back into the city to find Felicitay and hopefully find where his daughter is.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Yamato Hibiki Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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After a bit of walking, Suiken glanced from Yamato to the newcomer, asking her, "So,you say this guy you seek is the one who has the keys to set you free? You have any ideas as to where he might be?" Suiken then looked to the side an uttered, "Ah, hold on to that thought...!"Suiken announced as he turned to face a small building to his right. "Ah, it was here the whole time! The antique store!" Looking up at Yamato, he said, "Remember to inform me if you spot any of our missing companions!"

***

"Well looky here..." Tuying muttered, spying Orion conversing with the suspected criminal and his abductee, from the rooftops. "The purple headed merc may or may not be on the up and up, but he led us to our kidnapper and the kidnappee...But where's the other villain? The Ashuran one..."

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Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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#, as written by Rann
Seeing both Orion and Tiamat walk off; Nee quickly made some calculations before anything else happened. Orion... he must have noticed something, but what would be shocking enough? Did he somehow know Valkar, and realized that he was a slaver? Or, perhaps, something else, but what? Maybe- a cool breeze wafted onto her neck and Nee realized that the kimono had slipped down again. She cursed internally- how could someone like her forget to take into account the weight loss she's had since becoming a slave? This kimono would have fit her, before all of this stress, but now; she was too bony and too skinny for something like that. She absently put a finger to her ribs, under the kimono, and sighed sadly. Yes, she was definitely losing more weight than she wanted. At this rate, she wouldn't mature into a fully grown woman. Not that she cared so much about such things, but because with larger beasts and more ample thighs, manipulating hormone-addled men became that much easier. And she needed every edge she could get. So, Orion must have seen the collar, and deducted that Valkar was a slaver. That would beg the question: why was a slave girl so so, on the surface anyways, calm and collected? Nee cursed herself again; Orion must have realized that she had more to her than just an absent-minded noble. Dd he figure out what she was planning? Most likely not, but there was still a risk now. And more than ever, she wanted him close by for easier elimination when the time came.

She then brought her attention to Tiamat. As of now, she didn't know what to think of the half-ashura, other than that she most likely enjoyed violence. But because of that damn mask she kept on all the time, it was hard to really discern anything else. She liked money, right? Or else she wouldn't work as a mercenary in the first place, if that is what she is. But she was obviously powerful, perhaps moreso than Valkar. And that alone was something to keep her worth of note. If Nee could somehow sway her to her side, then everything will be easier. Much easier; and that was a risk she had to take. And if it turned out that Tiamat would be a hindrance, well, then it's better to keep an eye on her until there's an opportunity to kill her, right? To make sure she doesn't cause any problems down the road. Either way, it behooved for her to keep Tiamat around for at least a while longer.

"Hey, Valkar." Nee asked her only ally around. "What did Orion say to you?"

Valkar shrugged, before answering. "He's got something against slavers." He answered, mostly honestly. "...most people do, most likely." He added darkly, before wondering why he didn't just slit his throat before the orange man was out of sight. "He'll be coming after me, Nee. Not that I cant take him, but, are you sure you want to be so close to a fight?"

Nee looked at him with a small smile, almost losing her footing in her tiredness. "If you helped train me, at least a little, I could be of more help to you, Valkar." She said sweetly. "And... we need Tiamat." She gestured at the retreating back of the half-ashura. "There's something about her- it's best to keep her close for now."

Valkar looked puzzled- why exactly did Nee care so much about Tiamat? Was it simply for the extra female company? She probably didn't want to be alone with him, after all. Valkar dejectedly slumped his shoulders, wanting it, honestly, to be just him and Nee, like it was before he enslaved her. "Why?" He asked, and Nee shot in a pitiful look- one that spurred him into action. He raped her after all- he could at least do this much to try and make up for the evil deed. The slaver lord walked up to Tiamat, quickly trying to decide on something she'd agree to.

"Change of plans." He muttered. "We'll be staying in Jiefong for a bit longer. And before you bail on us, I'll offer you a few slaves from my empire once this business is all dealt with, for you to do with as you like." He gave her a tiny nudge on the shoulder. "no harm in having another sword, because you never know what could happen."

Nee felt the presence again- the cops had caught up to them. She cursed again and knew now there was no point in trying to leave Jiefong for now. She nudged both her companions, making sure they both noticed. And when Valkar frowned, she knew her message was conveyed.

So, once again, the trio; with Nee once again being toted around on Tiamat's back, walked around Jiefong; stopping briefly at a coffee shop to energize everyone; before settling underneath one of the canals, standing around the cement on either side of the water that flowed through the expansive city. With the ball being prepped to go, Nee figured this was the best spot to do things. To learn how to fight. Withdrawing the chain from the collar, and once again making sure they were in a blind spot, Nee prepared herself mentally for something she'd never done before- fight. Valkar approached with the small curved blade, but Nee tore it from his hands, not letting the man too close, and attached a chainlink through the small hole in the blade. Nee then swung the chain a little in her hand, blade dancing in a small circle.

"How do I do it, then?" She queried, and Valkar taught her about stance, positioning, aim, and all of that. As they play-fought, Valkar felt the smallest inkling of pride in her- she really was a quick learner. Not quite good enough to protect herself, at the end of the first lesson, but she picked up on the basics faster than he had anticipated. Nee seemed mostly good at reflexes, precision, and speed with her weapon, but had issues with keeping up with her footwork- often tripping, or having bad form or balance in her strikes. To remedy this, Valkar thought the best option would be to let her ride him or Tiamat in a fight, until Nee gained enough experience to be able to be mobile on her own. Her stamina, too, it was better than average for a first-timer. With a few years of experience, she'd be a valuable ally on the field along with her already skilled ability with diplomacy. Of course, there were a few times she almost stabbed him in the eye- it was ambiguous if that was on purpose or accidental.

And maybe with this, Valkar was starting to repay his sins.

To refresh after the training, Nee, still keeping a close eye to see if the cops were anywhere, brought convinced Valkar to go for a few drinks at one of the bars, with Tiamat almost grudgingly following. She had to go over a plan, after all, in waiting for Orion. And plus, Nee did still want to dress up in nice clothes, if only she could do something about that collar. Perhaps wear a scarf over her neck? Once at a private table to themselves, she began talking.

"So, there was a ball scheduled." Nee said with a little smirk. "I actually had my eyes on attending for a while, try on the nice clothes, get to know other nobles, and the like." Mostly so she could manipulate them. She continued. "And the cops wouldn't dare take too close a look at the nobles. I could get you two nice clothing so you'd fit in well enough as my bodyguards, and we could stay undercover there, right?"

Valkar almost visibly winced. But he'd have to put up with it- it's a shame he had to go without his usually somewhat decent looks, though. "Might as well." He said plainly, glancing at Tiamat for her reaction, while Nee went oddly silent, also staring at the half-ashura, as if gauging her reactions.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
A wicked grin appeared on Valkar's face as he saw the woman turn to him, raising her warhammer. Quickly pushing Nee out of the way, Valkar heated up his axe with chi and used the flat of it to block the hit, being knocked back quite a bit, His boots broke into the wooden floor, and some of the other patrons started sporting worried looks; more than a few trying to leave, other's crying 'FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!" and quickly encircled the two warriors. "It's just business." Valkar said smoothly before delivering a sharp kick at the sudean woman's side. "Who are you to judge how I make my living? A man's gotta eat, after all." He then made a feint at her leg, before using momentum to switch his direction and instead aim the heated weapon straight towards her throat, moving at rapid speeds. Valkar had to make sure not to underestimate her. Anyone who is Tiamat's sister obviously has to be skilled as well, right?

The two fighters quickly wrecked up their corner of the bar. Nee, after being pushed, crawled back to stay out of the fight, eyes wide open in shock. She hadn't even thought of this possibility, and her mind was too busy watching the fight to try to calculate things now. She figured, though, that the sudean woman was a good person, at the very least, for hating slavery. Noxchi, right? Nee smiled bitterly at her situation, and wished she had the option to agree with Noxchi. Unfortunately, she was forced into enabling slavery for some time until she managed to gain enough influence to change things from within. It was hard to accept, but that was how it was. So Noxchi killing Valkar would obviously be the unfavorable outcome.... right? She didn't need freedom yet, right? She wondered briefly, how messed up is she, to be supporting her goddamn rapist in this whole thing? But then again.. hadn't she, essentially, asked for it? She hadn't tried to resist being enslaved whatsoever, and even provoked Valkar with her silence, earlier on. So maybe she really did ask for it. Maybe the fault was on her. In any case... it was too late to worry about such things. Almost regretfully, Nee took out her chain from her collar and swing it towards the sudean warhammer-wielder, trying to strike her in the eye.




"Yeah." Hyuna agreed, paying rapt attention to the Oni. She really wanted to learn this right; maybe it could win Muna over, and make her realize that the evil noble she was currently with was not worth the time. He was only good for hanging off of a certain spear. "Thanks... um, Suiken." Hyuna said sheepishly. "Maybe we could... try getting along better from now on..." She was mumbling now, almost not believing the words coming out of her mouth. But, it was the least she could do, right? Suiken was offering to help her out, after all.

"Okay." She prepared herself. "I'm ready to start."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
A hard elbow crashed into Valkar's face before he could really take anything into account, and fell crashing into the floorboards of the now mostly empty bar. What had happened? After seeing the flick of the whip, and the blood that spilt from that, he had the perfect opportunity to rid himself of one of the larger problems his business had to deal with so far. That Sudean woman, who'd ruined so many of his dealings as of yet. It was supposed to be easy after she was distracted by Nee's support- drive the axe into her throat, and then continue with their lives as if nothing happened. But when he came to, he saw that Tiamat; once somewhat-ally, and now, apparently, standing alongside her half-sister, an ebbing feeling of dread seemed to build up in his gut.His head hurt, his back hurt. He groggily made to get up, before they could take advantage of his disorientation, when the slave girl stood in front of him, with her arms out.

"Stop!" She shouted fiercely, eyes narrowed at the two sisters. Her voice was strong, but was there that slight bit of doubt and unease creeping in? Whatever it was, it didn't reflect on her resolute face. "Don't kill him, okay? Or you'll have to kill me!"

The slaver lord tried to say something- she was being incredibly stupid, after all, but she addressed his fears quickly. "Noxchi won't kill me." She said. "She's trying to free me, so I'm your best bet at survival, right now. You don't stand a chance against them, so we should just escape while we can." She eyed the warhammer carefully, apprehensively, with a sharp frown. Her calculations had to be correct; there's no way this could go wrong and end with her getting killed in such a stupid way, right?

Gridiron would have been lying were she to have claimed she had predicted Amanhã would enter the fray in her favour-- indeed, she had feared initially her half sister would eventually come to the slave lord's defence, and though she had not seen her sister in twenty five years, she wagered she knew her well enough to presume she hadn't stopped endlessly cultivating her martial prowess as she had every single day of her life back in their home town, and the accounts she'd heard whenever she inquired as to the activities of the half-Ashuran bounty hunter confirmed she had only ever continued to grow stronger. Against both her and the slave lord... Gridiron didn't like those odds any more than she liked the prospect of her sister turning on her and proving any semblance of hope that she might find an opportunity to come to terms with Amanhã and what she had become ultimately futile.

But she had leapt to Gridiron's aid, though the slave lord very clearly could have paid her much more than her sister ever could have for the ministrations of her blade-- though it would have by all regards been to her immediate benefit to help the slaver and presumably be remunerated handsomely for it. And that indicated at the very least the possibility was not completely far-fetched.

Unable to conceal an eager, almost naive grin, Gridiron stepped toward the slaver, felled by Amanhã's metal-clad elbow, and raised her warhammer to deliver the final blow, the wicked point on the other side of its business end aimed for Cha'Valkar's face to put a swift (if none too pretty) end to the slave lord's reign. She had not even begun to swing the death arc, however, before the slave girl hurtled herself into its path, and Gridiron was forced to give pause, staring with burgeoning bewilderment as the girl argued fiercely for the life of her captor.

Gritting her teeth, Gridiron attempted to reason with the poor, disillusioned soul-- she would have rather not been forced to prove the girl wrong in order to snuff out the life of another scum of the land. "You've been lulled into a false sense of loyalty," she ventured in a voice torn between understanding and impatience. "As many do in such circumstances. This man is not your friend-- he isn't your ally, your protector, and certainly nothing to defend. He's the scum of Horat-- a cretin who forces children to endure endless suffering in the interests of his own profit-- subjects them to indignities that cannot be spoken of, if accounts of his vile actions are to be trusted. I... we--" she cast a quick glance to Amanhã, but her sister's expression remained utterly unreadable. "-- we can save you from that. Step aside... you're standing in the way of salvation for hundreds of people who suffer at his hands."

It really was a hard bargain. She almost took a step forward, but then stayed rooted to the spot; face tight with tension. It very well may be that everything the Sudean said was true- right? But that left a lot of holes in what she's noticed so far in Valkar. The more she thought about it, there's no way he could have ended up in this proffession willingly. Nee was absolutely certain, something had to be threatening him. Otherwise he wouldn't have stopped the physical abuse after breaking her in- he'd have simply continued and laughed more at her suffering. That in itself was proof. Did he inherit the position, or perhaps, was forced to? She thought it was likely- and perhaps it'd be best to ask him once she got them out of this predicament alive.

"Sure, he's done terrible things..." Nee allowed, making her tone as biting as possible, trying to dig more guilt into Valkar as she made her point. "But he's not entirely at fault here, Noxchi."

The slave raised her head into the Sudean's eyes; straightening her back to stand at her diminutive height, wishing vainly that she was at least a bit taller, to make this gesture more impactful. "I... I believe he's a product of the system. Brainwashed and forced into believing that this is okay, or maybe coerced into it. And even if you did kill him here- the empire wouldn't crumple so easily. Others would step up, I imagine, or maybe other slave groups would take the opportunity to wipe them out, and take their slaves." She took a shaky breath, not daring to take her eyes off of the two sisters to see if Valkar had rebalanced himself yet- he hadn't just yet, being too in shock and emotional pain at the girl's words to really think logically at this point- and pressed on with her words. It was all she had, after all. "You're a good person, I bet. And you're... I think you're trying to do the right thing here. But please, you can just let us go, and pretend this never happened, couldn't you?" An almost eerie calm overcame her. Valkar, as well as his slave empire, was necessary for her eventual goal. So if she lost them here, she might as well just die alongside with it. But only as a last resort.

She smiled grimly. "I'm doing what's right for me."

Gridiron scowled-- she wished she could have said she'd never before encountered a slave so profoundly conditioned to leap to the defence of their master, to see them as anything other than the vile filth they were, but such a claim would have been a woeful lie. But she was done attempting to reason-- the girl was clearly not in her right mind if she thought a slaver was something to be empathised with. The very second one person took it upon themselves to subjugate another for profit... they deserved to die. No matter their motive, no matter their past, their attempts at justification, no slaver deserved anything other than a brutal and immediate demise at the end of Gridiron's warhammer. If the girl did not understand this now... then perhaps when Gridiron had slain her master and returned her to wherever her home was, she would gradually come to her senses.

"You're not." That was the sole reply the Sudean warrior gave before one hand reached out, clamped down on the girl's slight shoulder, and shoved her to the side, leaving the pathetic slaver, battered and shell-shocked, lying uselessly on the floor. No empire, no riches, just abject defeat-- and death, borne upon the warhammer Gridiron raised once again to destroy the slave lord once and for all.

Nee fell abjectly to the side, almost hissing in the displeasure of having someone touch her body at all. She shot a cold look at the whole situation, and knew she'd have to do something drastic in order to get Valkar to snap out of it and get the hell up before he died, and ruined all that she'd suffered for. So Nee propped herself upright with a running leap and dug the blade of her chain as far into Noxchi's muscled arm as she could, drawing some blood as the blade tore into muscle, grunting with the effort. "Valkar!" She cried out, angrily. "If you don't get up, I'll go and sell myself as a prostitute, or something!"

That was enough to wake him up, and he, after a brief shake of the head, got up. He tasted some blood- must have bit his tongue somewhere along the way. He knew that he was roughly an even match with the Sudean, and weaker than Tiamat... so fighting against them both at the same time was tantamount to suicide. He didn't know how Nee figured out his past so easily, but that'd have to be dealt with later. Right now, the top priority was getting out of this with their lives intact. No matter the cost. And he knew how he'd have to do it. Valkar feinted a slash at the Sudean, only to push his feet against the floor to propel himself; hand out to grasp at Nee, who tentatively took the hand. The girl looked back at the two enemies darkly.

"Let's not see each other again." She said with an impassive frown. "I-"

A sudden yank of her chain sent her flying out of Valkar's grip- the Sudean had grabbed onto it before they could get away. The slaver looked stricken- and now torn between his own life, and the life of his slave. It was almost an eternal moment; slaver and slave looking into each other's eyes, until the girl hissed at him to get out with his life. Looking almost apologetic, Valkar did, already trying ot think of ways to get Nee back as he rushed down the streets of Jiefong. He really needed to contact Moga now, to have any hope of rescuing her.

Nee shot an angry scowl at the Sudean, getting herself up from the ground, and rubbing what she could of her throat and the sudden soreness from the grab itself.

"Satisfied?" She cursed, too tired and annoyed to bother acting.

Once again, victory (both for herself, and for the world as a whole) evaded Gridiron. For the second time she raised her weapon, prepared to bring it down upon her quarry and rid the world of another slaver.... and once again, the girl impeded that goal. This time, she chose rather a more direct path of expressing her objections to Gridiron's intention. Namely, by attacking her.

The Sudean warrior had not expected the girl's misguided dedication to her captor to run so deep as to encourage violent action in his defence, and the girl's attack was too swift, from too close a distance, to be evaded. Gridiron gave a snarl of pain as the slave's blade dug into the flesh of her arm, and her left hand instinctively released the other end of the warhammer to clamp down on the gash, which did not, fortuitously, appear to be a potentially debilitating injury, even as sanguine began to seep between the fingers clasping over it. In the interval, the girl had once again leapt to the slave lord, and, turning back toward Gridiron and Amanhã, she frowned. "Let's not see each other again," she remarked, almost in a taunting fashion.

Well, Gridiron had other ideas-- if she couldn't kill the damn slaver, the least she could do was tear this completely indoctrinated child from his grasp and hopefully divorce her of her delusions. The other end of the chain lay not far from Gridiron's feet; swiftly, she swept down, grabbed onto it, and tugged hard, sending the girl reeling from the arms of the slave lord. The man looked briefly stricken by the loss of his possession, but the girl snarled at him to take the chance to escape-- indeed, Gridiron, one hand tight on the chain, the other still carrying her warhammer, was already advancing vehemently. He did not tarry about: he turned, and fled like the cowardly cretin he was, leaving his slave and the two sisters standing in the ruined remains of the bar.

"Satisfied?" Gridiron turned her irate glare toward the girl, who was scowling bitterly at her. The Sudean's wrathful mien softened slightly-- she could not be angry at the girl for having been so thoroughly deceived, after all. "No," she replied honestly, replacing her warhammer in its straps at her back and sighing in fatigue. "I could have removed the blight of one more slaver from this world if not for your intervention... but it can't be helped. All I can do now is see to it that you're returned to your family-- your father was the one who told me where'd you'd been taken from and by whom, and sent me to retrieve you." A lingering thought struck her, and she turned back to her sister, who had remained silent and impassive throughout the spectacle. "Will you... are you willing to accompany us?"

The only visible shift in Amanhã's expression was a thinning of the mouth, her pale bluish lips going flat in an utterly inscrutable motion. And then, with no further fanfare, in a rare show of oblique expression, she gave a minute nod.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Suiken Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Rumelis Morende Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
"This is what you do to everyone you meet?" Rumelis asked once the spear girl tired of stabbing the fleshy heaps. It was ridiculously fun- some of the most fun she's had in a while, killing bastards who deserved it. This, Hyuna thought; this was the way to fight. This is why fighting exists. To wipe out bastards like this. Wiping sweat off her brow with a satisfied, almost lazy smile, she regarded Rumelis. "That, that was awesome." She sighed contently. "Rumelis, that was amazing. Ecstasy."

She then saw Suiken look almost disappointed, shaking his head and asking a simple, 'Why'.

"Because they deserved it." Hyuna replied sweetly, almost with childlike happiness. She noticed Suiken bending down to pick up something glinting... a key. Not just a key, but the key. The key that orca beast-man had gotten way back then. That made Hyuna smile even more brightly- she punished some bastards who personally might have known where the Orca was taken. The bastards probably did it themselves. They deserved it; every second of it. Hyuna even enjoed the horrified screams.

"Let's get outta here." She said simply to Rumelis and Suiken. "Or the cops..." She shrugged and used wind to blow the blood off of her, splattering onto the street and buildings.




Well, shit. She was alone now, wasn't she, completely isolated with two enemies. Nee regarded Tiamat and Noxchi impassively. Her father had organized her rescue? Did he somehow know that Valkar was involved? She almost felt guilty- but her goals mattered more than anything. She wouldn't let her familial bonds get in the way of that. To be honest, the easiest way for things to go would be if she had her father assassinated, so she could take over this instant. But, well, she didn't want to. At least, not yet. She loved him, after all, a great deal. And she also figured that this might be good for her to gather her thoughts, without being constantly reminded of the rape Valkar had subjected her to.

That was probably the only positive point. And although she knew she could easily escape once dropped off at her home, this was possibly more important. Figuring out more about Tiamat and Noxchi, and possibly hiring them once the time came. She had to keep that in mind, just in case it came to it.

"I'll just run off." Nee explained in a bored voice, to Noxchi. "My father and his guards can't catch me, you know. I'll just go and meet Valkar again."

She twinkled a chilly smile. "Your move, Sudean."




Valkar was on the run, already out of Jiefong. He had to get back to Gwan for now, to regroup and reconsider everything. It was important now that he focused on getting Nee back, in order to dominate the slave markets in Gwan and possibly all of Horat. But more than that... he wanted his friend back. He wanted to make up for his mistakes.

This was all his own damn fault. So then, Valkar sent a mail via pigeon to Moga, telling him to use his two crow-beastmen to keep a bead at a safe distance, on Nee's location, at all times. So once he was ready, he'd be able to take her back.




A Gwanish slaver, second in command of the current most dominant slaver empire in Gwan looked at his supporters. His own... sub-faction, he liked to call it. After tormenting his personal slave, Minene a bit more, he was ready to star the plan to eliminate Valkar and take control. With Valkar isolated, and taking care of an idiotic noble, this was their best opportunity. And he knew that these men were loyal to him, and him alone. Valkar made for a good pretty face, and did help move the empire along, but his time was over now. He was, persay, no longer required.

Moga grinned darkly. This would be his empire one day. He made his first move, the unknown player on the chess board.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Millie Kiyare Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Terra Himene Character Portrait: Rumelis Morende Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar
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#, as written by Rann
The catgirl had slinked off somewhere- where, Hyuna didn't care all that much. She'd touched that soft exquisite fur, and that was enough for her. She's probably off somewhere enjoying her freedom, right? Hyuna then turned her attention to the bear, after leaving the scene of the crime- the evidence being a pile of flesh lumped together in a grotesque clump, almost like post-modern art. She let out a chuckle- crushing those guys was really awesome. Hyuna enjoyed it, probably way too much, honestly. But it didn't matter. It was cathartic. It was fun. That was what mattered in life. Because eventually it'll shit in you and fuck you over, anyways, so there's no real point in trying anything worthwhile.

Chances are her song would fail and Muna would stay with her new lover. Chances are she'll never reconcile kill Fortune, and fix her past. Chances are she'll never be strong enough to make Yamato proud. There were so many things she'd probably never accomplish, and the more she thought of it, the more depressed she got.

It really was hopeless, wasn't it?

"Heh." Hyuna said, eyes downcast again, but trying to maintain a tough front for the bear. "Touching you beast-men is awesome."

She'd said it almost half-heartedly, knowing who she really longed for. When seeing Terra and Millie burst into the clothing store, for god knows what, it brought her mood even lower. A part of her hoped that Muna'd be the one to walk in, suddenly proclaiming that she changed her mind and chose Hyuna- wouldn't that be something? Something absolutely wonderful? And maybe love and hope would triumph, and Hyuna would learn to not be a blood obsessed killer. But love and hope never triumph, and Hyuna knew her mental scarring from the war would never leave her; at least, not completely. Her bloodlust was a part of her, wasn't it? As much as she, deep down, wished to be the innocent adventure seeker she once was, she knew that it was far too late for it.

She'd try, of course, to vie for Muna's affection. But the result was already decided. She'd fail, miserably, at that. All she has is fighting. All a girl like her'd ever be good at. She managed a small smile at Millie, who was bouncing almost ecstatically at her, but more or less walked past without saying much. She was in the mood for, who knows, some kind of deprecation. For someone to tell it to her like it is; to hurt her with words as much as possible. An the best person for that was, of course, her old friend Yuwen. She found him and regarded him with a tiny, almost imperceptible nod of the head.

"Hey." She growled. "You're pretty shit at taking care of your guild, aren't you?" She shot him a nasty smile, hoping it'd rile him up, make him go after her, hoping he wouldn't notice the fact that she was emotionally breaking apart. That her dagger-like word were blunt and aimless; that her scowl was cracked and shaky. "You're just, you're so self-centered, Yuwen. Using our lives for your own benefit!"

Hyuna, in an instant, found herself with her spear aimed just bare inches away from Yuwen's throat. Would he react, yet? Would he tell her just how bad she was? "I should kill you here." She whispered.




Learning from Valkar's example, Nee knew all she needed to manipulate the half-ashura, at least for now. She offered money, and Tiamat grabbed at it, dangling in front of her bait like a sucker. It worked well- and she'd be able to go to the ball. It was somewhat of a shame in that she wouldn't really be able to enjoy herself there- she had to try and gain allies in southern spheres of Yune, first. Mingle with the nobles there, get to know them, and charm them. And the more she can win over, the better it'd be for later.

But she really wished she could just enjoy herself. She had a pretty well-made pale pink kimono back at Furoe- but perhaps the one she was currently wearing would work well enough. It looked a bit big on her, and slightly roughed up, but no matter- at least none of the blood spilled onto her. It could just barely work, although a snug fit might have been a better choice; this one at least emphasized her small stature and hopefully magnified her cute and endearing factor.

"It's nothing." Nee said easily to Gridiron thanking her. She loved thanks- it usually meant the person had enough honor to feel some sort of debt to her. And the more people like that there were, the better off she'd be. It was fairly easy to trick the feeling of gratitude into responsibility, and essentially unknowingly force people into serving her. For Gridiron, that wouldn't be so easy, but she'd give it a shot once she knew more.

Still, it was no time to renege on the deal and start resisting again, Nee knew it was best to concede to Gridiron's current wishes, gesturing at her tired body. If she tried to get up, she knew she'd most likely stumble and hurt the kimono. "If you can carry me." She said sweetly to Gridiron. "It hurts to walk right now- I may need some coffee once we remove the collar." She looked at the chain, though, and smiled a little at it. "I'm keeping the chain though, that's non negotiable."

"And who knows," she added darkly. "Maybe being free would benefit me in some ways, Gridiron."

Nee held out her arms helplessly, waiting for the lift.




Moga received the message from Valkar, telling him to move out his beastmen unit to stalk the girl, Nee. It'd be pretty easy- that girl was the man's weak point after all. Moga looked at his epee with a big of a sigh- he couldn't beat Valkar in an actual fight. But having the girl in his clutches, maybe raping her a few times- that might change the current slaver lord's tactics, wouldn't it? Especially if she wasn't in his gaze at this moment.

The girl was the key in eliminating Cha'Valkar.

"If you find her." Moga said carefully to his men. "Bring her to me at your first opportunity."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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#, as written by Rann
Nee let out a sigh, huddling herself tighter in a smaller, more compact ball. It was ridiculous, wasn't it? And she supposed she really had been relying too much on Gridiron's newfound kindness here. They had only just met- and hey, hadn't Nee stricken the Sudean with that blade of hers, a few times? Funny, really, how things turned out, wasn't it? She shuffled a little. What was going on with her? For the first time in a long time, Nee was actively trying to not turn on her sharp and analytic mind on the Sudean. It was pretty hard to discern why at first- trying to dig into people's heads could only give advantages, after all, right? But then again... doing that also stopped her from viewing people as equal to herself. And, wryly, Nee realized that she already out the Sudean slave-killer up to the same height that she put herself. A girl who, her whole life, kept people at a controllable distance; unable to really form much of a connection, she found herself quite starved, honestly, for someone who she could simply choose not to manipulate. Sure, it had it's own practical reasons- Griddy seemed to be more useful with sincerity than with callousness, but then again... the somewhat emotional dependence that had grown on Nee really was genuine. She didn't know if it irked her or not. Maybe it was... a little pleasant? Too early to tell, though, really, if this friendship could last, what with that suit of armor sitting, possibly asleep, in the corner of the cave. Really was pretty damn cold, and the noble really wanted to move around a bit, to get some heat in her muscles.

Finally, Gridiron gave her answer to Nee's query- alleviating the burden on her heart just a little bit. "Well... I mean..." Gridiron looked uncertain, and tended to the waning fire that didn't do much to warm up Nee at all. The gesture was there, though, and she listened with rapt attention. "-you shouldn't be used to it." A brief pause. "You're a child, Nee. I know you probably don't like to be told that, but... you are. And children... aren't meant to have to grapple with the morality of killing."

Was that really true, though? There was that boy, in the Yunish army, was there not? He was hardly older than she was- and was still considered a child, and yet... killing was most definitely on his mind. How about that Rika? She was a member of the guild, so sure enough, she got some kills herself. She looked almost Nee's age, also just a tad older. And yet killing still happened there. Nee shrugged sadly, silently. Was she even a child anymore, these days? Had she ever been?

Nee drifted her mind back to the dark, dank cave, missing some of Gridiron's words, but getting the meaning nonetheless. It was nice, in a way, to have someone worry about her as a child like this... and it was, to a point, self gratifying. But if she wanted to spearhead a rebellion, she had to discard that part of her; lock it away forever, right? Nee noticed the Sudean shift her position a bit; Nee shut down her brain momentarily as to not go into the psychological implications of said turn. "But if you're asking if you did the right thing... you did what you had to do."

"Forgive the presumption..." Gridiron returned her look to Nee, who nodded and mumbled, faintly; 'forgiven', before falling silent again. "But I suspect you already know that sometimes what you have to do isn't the right thing at all."


It really was a lot to think about, wasn't it? "Did what I had to do." Nee mused balefully. "Like, the ends justified the means, right?" Did that apply in all walks of life? Sure... it wasn't the right thing to do, by all means- but it might've been the necessary thing. And there is a distinct difference between right and necessary here. Necessary evil. Necessary villain. Nee wondered briefly- was that her role in this world? "So... doing evil for a later good... that's how it is?"

Nee then got up, clutching at her kimono now. she had gotten a bit of rest on the way to the cave, so her mind wasn't as weary as death, anymore. But then again... well, whatever. The presence outside seemed to want her, in any case. Nee stretched her arms out, wondering exactly who they were. She had to respond with one last thing, though, to Gridiron.

"In some echelons of Yunish society..." Nee gulped; hard. "After being broken in by a man, a girl becomes a woman." Her vision shook a little, and turned grey at the corners just a bit- hyperventilating. She took another harsh gulp to do her best to keep it down; ignoring the pounding headache. "So because of that Valkar... I'm not so sure if I count as a child anymore. Not that it wasn't nice to hear- thank you, Gridiron." She made a bit of a curtsey. "I... I'm going to get some air, before we head out again. Be back soon." She said that last bit with resolve because, well, she wasn't sure if she was going to be back, if it was who she thought it was.

Leaving the cave behind, Nee stepped out into the bitter biting mountain winds. She caught a glimpse of the square tilled fields below; a few red farmhouses. At the distance, she could vaguely see a figure of a man using wind chi to harvest his plants, a whole field of carrots rising at once, and moving in unison towards the storage. A little boy, playing with a cow and a wooden sword, using it as a steed. Nee looked at them fondly... her subjects. The people she'd protect, once she got power. And they were only a small sample. Warm, gentle feeling surged through her, as she felt the two presences get closer.

"So." Nee said icily. "Valkar made his first move, didn't he?"

There they were, the Eagle and the Hummingbird- disgruntled at the worthless Guild Fortune that couldn't even complete a quest right. When the whole thing exploded, the two avians did what they could- measuring the damage before visiting several pubs, maliciously spreading rumors around Jiefong how terrible said guild was. As of now, it'd be hard for them to really be able to find a job at all, really. And, well, it worked as punishment, they supposed. Didn't matter in the long run; their target was here, ripe for the taking.

"Took him long enough." The noble continued. "Was wondering if he'd forgotten abo-"

Two feathered hands grasped hard at her wrists, wrenching her back. Nee spun; eyes narrowed. What the hell was going on? Kicking forward in reflex; dust and a few pebbles rolling down the side of the Comrade Mountains, Nee started breathing hard again at the firm grasp behind her. But try as the terrified noble might, she couldn't get out. One thing was for sure though- this couldn't be Valkar. He'd have made his men treat her with more kindness than this; that was a given. Forcing herself to focus- this was no time to be freaking out- she asked, in a hissing, biting tone. "Who sent you?"

"You'll be a nice pawn." The hummingbird said, watching the eagle secure ropes around the girl; bound and helpless. "With you as our hostage... well. Our leader; Moga, can make Valkar do anything he wants."

"Like kill 'imself." The eagle said darkly, hoisting the girl up above his shoulder. Her eyes squinted in rapid thought, first of indignation- a pawn? Really? Wouldn't that be ironic- after all of her machinations and deliberations, she ends up as a stupid pawn? That's just... terrible. Second of all, and most importantly- her sexual safety was in no way promised anymore, was it? Cold shudder wracked through her, and as her body jerked, she felt the hand tighten around her waist, holding her in place.

"B-but... who's... second in command. Moga... internal p-power stru-" Okay, maybe it was a lot harder than she thought, to keep herself composed, when at risk of shit happening to her all over again. She struggled fiercely as The hummingbird nodded, confirming her thoughts. So there really was a power struggle- and perfectionist thoughts started rushing through Nee's head: this time, on how to eliminate Moga as soon as possible, and re-unite with Valkar before her safety could be used against him, again.

Still, she wasn't all that helpless. Seeing the cave, Nee let out a shrill scream for help, particularly, Griddy, to come and save her.




Just north of Hanshan, two men were walking. An old, pale looking man, with grizzled grey hair, holding an assortment of maps in his back, alongside his son, with a messy mop of brown hair, almost covering his eyes, toting a donkey behind him, with food and water rations.

"Father." The young man aid, yawning tiredly. "You don't have to try and fool me."

The man looked upon his son with weary eyes, seeing the rising sun in the horizon. He really was old; soon he'd have to stop travelling and settle down in Leiya once and for all. He'd lived a long, mostly good life. Losing his love too early... and losing his daughter, also way too early, he was still mostly happy. At least he had his son, Lunan Ka-Nan, with him, to spend his last days with. The father let out a bit of a cough; deep in his lungs, it was, and Lunan shot him a worried raised eyebrow.

"It's dangerous for you to travel this far from Leiya these days." Lunan scratched his hair absently, recalling the last few weeks. "We've been all over Yune. It's as if you're looking for... someone."

Of course, the old man was, wasn't he? The man sighed wearily. "I can't... settle down. Not until my baby girl comes back, and forgives us."

Lunan spat bitterly. "Forgive us?" He shouted. "She... you know her role in my fiancee's... it's her fault, Father!" Lunan stopped walking momentarily, wiping away at the tears forming in his eyes, while the father just wistfully looked at his son. Lunan's temper, while never as fiery as Hyuna's was, it was still pretty strong. It family resemblance was uncanny. "She was pregnant with my child, father, Yaeha, and yet-"

"If Hyuna could have helped it, my dear boy, she would'v-"

Almost like a swooping predator, a man with long hair and a red suit descended upon them. He recognized a younger version of that voice, and regarded the man and father nth scrutiny. Was it really him, Valkar wondered momentarily. The slaver who managed to escape his clutches and live a mostly good life? The slaver who fell in love with a slave?

"Run." The father said after a few moments, to his son, with panicked eyes. Sure enough, the red suit and long hair was iconic- the son of the man who was once head of the Ku'rannos Slaver Ring. Cha'Valkar. The man shuddered... he didn't want any of his children to know his past, after all.

"Been a while, Riev." Valkar said, with a grin. "Or... whatever name you're going by now."

"Haven't heard it in a while." The man who was once Riev said guardedly, while Lunan looked back and forth between the two men in confusion. "Though, my name's Kolan Ka-Nan now."

"A nice Yunish name" Valkar simpered. "Well, then. Where's the sl- wife? How is she?"

"Dead." Kolan murmured, looking down. "Childbirth." He then looked up, with imploring eyes to Valkar. "I don't want anything to do with my past anymore. Please, Cha... leave us be. Okay?"

Cha laughed, and patted the man's shoulder. "Don't worry about a thing." He said with a bitter, self loathing smile. "I'm not here to kill you. It's just- I need advice. It seems that I, too, want to protect and take care of a slave, although for me, it's more of a... father-daughter thing."




Goddamn, this new spear was heavy. Hyuna twirled it a bit- it really felt off-balance. Not really something he could use as well as the custom made one, after all. but then again, her old tengu spear was so heavily modified in order for a small girl like her to be able to wield it at all. Still, perhaps the extra weight could make for a more powerful thrust, at the sacrifice of some speed. Hyuna twirled it again, ending with a jab to a part of the stone, feeling the sediment crack under the blade. It lacked the armor-shearing capabilities of her old spear, and that really was a same. It also would take more energy for her to hold... but it was the best she could do for now. She clenched her left fist: chi hand still was fine, in any case.

Hyuna muttered a thanks, feeling awkward without straps on her back to shove her spear, but she couldn't complain. At least she had something. And she'd have to adjust, wouldn't she?

"Now all we have to do is find your guild master and get this whole thing sorted out." Orion said, in an almost business like tone. Hyuna groaned internally; she had just, literally, just escaped them for a reason, right? That fucking bunny. Hyuna still burned with shame at the idea of needing to face her again. If she was in trouble... there's no way Hyuna'd jump in and save her this time. The faster this damn mess got dealt with, the faster she could move on, and forget about her only love. Behind Orion's back, Hyuna made an illusion of Muna being exploded into bits by condensed air- and Hyuna felt no pang of pain at all, in her heart. Instead, she felt righteous vindication. Vengeance for the pain that she suffered. Her slasher smile spread on her face. "Hopefully they are still at the palace, and I think the ball should last for another hour, so I think it would be best if headed over there to see if we can find your comrades."

"Let's make it quick." Hyuna said, making a slight manic laugh. "Or else I'd be tempted to just kill Fortune and be done with it all."

Rounding a corner, and getting in eyesight of the palace on fire, Hyuna knew exactly what to do. She, with her new awkward spear, charged forwards with her air chi boosting her, tearing apart a few monsters with one hand shredding them apart; vicious air chi raging. Been a while, hasn't it, since she could kill? Far; far too long. She only hoped to not see Muna anywhere. The damned bunny.

Suddenly feeling the urge to look visually impressive, Hyuna did a little jump and a spin in the air; left hand conjuring up those shining white wings, stretching out from her shoulder blades on the back, flapping a little as she landed; both feet on the ground. With a cool smirk, still not used to this spear's weight, she waited for Orion to catch up and get all this shit over with.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Yuwen Fortune Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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The loudest fucking explosion cracked the sky. Hyuna and Orion both stopped in their tracks as they heard it - was it related to the explosion powder of before? Probably. So that had to mean that half of the palace had blown up as well, right? She clutched her spear tightly. What the hell had happened? Was Magic making his move? Did he attack the guild? Goddamnit. God fucking damnit. Sure, she hates them, almost all of them... but, seriously. They were her kill, weren't they, despite everything? Specifically Yuwen. She had claimed him, did she not? She turned to a confused Orion with an angry glare.

"Gonna have to save my idiot Guild Master." She said wearily. "Stupid me. Wait for me, kay?" So then, using her left hand to propel wind behind her at high velocity, Hyuna catapulted herself through the air, almost using her spear as a rod to help aim her. Flying chunks of rock and palace gold were in the air, almost suspended as Hyuna rushed toward the debris at high speed, like a rocket, just in time to see a familiar bastard snatching Fortune from Lo-Muna's grasp. Seeing the rabbit girl again made Hyuna flounder, of course, and she failed to time a dodge right, a mountain chunk falling and forcibly pushing her back, away from Muna. It was just as well. She wasn't prepared to face her just yet. The searing of her heart was proof of that. She then glanced around in midair- in her element, for the hooded bastard, who had stolen Yuwen, and saw a glimpse of them elsewhere. But first- and her mental voice screamed at her to just kill the damned rabbit, Hyuna knew she couldn't just leave it at that.

"Just to be clear." Hyuna hissed, propelling herself towards Muna. "I still hate you, okay?"

For a brief moment, she considered rejoining the guild, upon seeing the Rabbit's eyes. But, of course, it wasn't to be, and Hyuna placed her left hand at the small of Muna's back, and used wind to blast her down to the riverbank below, only just protecting her fall with a rather strong cushion of air. And now that that was dealt with, the spear girl aimed herself at the dancing singing oni. Just seeing his ugly old fat form made her even more the angrier. What the hell anyways? This is a perfect damn opportunity to get rid of him.

"Dancing singing oni." Hyuna snarled, using air to hold him in place, utterly ignoring the other guild members. "You... r-ruined everything!" Hissing shrilly, the spear girl shot herself forward, hoping to land a lethal blow. And just in case the dancing singing oni could somehow dodge, or deflect it, she hardened air to a sharp point around her left hand, driving it Suiken's center of mass.




And there was Gridiron, standing at the mouth of the cave, looking at once, stricken, relieved, and confused all at once. It was a little amusing to see the wide range of expressions cross the Sudean's face, but she would have felt mean to let it stay like that.." Nee glanced up at Gridiron with a pleasant, 'I'm safe so it's okay" smile, and then said, aptly... "I'm safe, so it's okay." In response to Gridiron's apology and explanation. Of course, Tiamat was being as stoic as ever, and just muscled past Gridiron wordlessly, leaving Nee looking after the suit of armor with a puzzled frown, only slapping the Sudean for the silly statement.

"She's always like that." Nee sighed, wrapping the chain around her obi once again. "I believe, though... she's better than she lets on, Griddy. I'm glad I have you both with me right now."

She then stretched her lithe body, feeling the weariness and tension ebb away, and let out a long sigh of satisfaction. It really did feel good; and she was anxious to get back on the road after Griddy and Tiamat were both ready to head back out. Meanwhile, her mind was already at work to adjust her plans in order to take out Moga- can't have him vying for control, after all. How would she handle this new problem? And that name - Minayne - how would that fit in? Maybe Nee could make use of her, somehow. She thought carefully, preparing to turn things over in her head a few dozen times. Remembering Griddy was still standing next to her, Nee tentatively patted her as high as she could reach, and then sauntered back into the cave. She halted in her tracks, though, and turned back to her.

"Hey... remember my query, back before the ball?"




"So my mother used to be your slave."

"Yes." Kolan said, for the upteenth time, in the small in of in Hanshan. The three of them had decided to rest in Hanshan for the time being, even finding a ranch to let their pack donkey stay. All in all, it was pretty convenient. And the whole time, Lunan was confirming his father's dubious history. "She was- so innocent. I couldn't resist her charm."

He remembered her smiling face, her small form; everything, with a sad fondness. It had been too long, hadn't it? Since they;d parted? His shoulders then slumped, remembering how she died, whispering for him to treasure Hyuna- then just a newborn babe. Her last smile, fading as she lost the strength to keep going. The memory, even nineteen years later, still itched at his mind, and his soul. Did he treat her right? Did he raise her right? He asked this all the time.

"And you changed your name, from a slaver named Riev'Tadarn."

"Yes."

"One of the better ones." Valkar muttered from his corner of the room. "It's good t'see you again now, at least." The red man put a hand behind his head bashfully. "Glad you're doing okay for now, for your old age."

Kolan chuckled at his old friend. "I'm not that old." He wheezed, and coughed harshly, phlegm appearing on his hand. Lunan quickly steadied his father and helped set him down on the bed.

"I'll go get a medic." Lunan nodded briefly at Valkar before leaving the room.

"Been too long, Riev." Valkar whistled through his teeth. "So... how do I make that girl trust me? How do I make up for what.... what I did to her?"

Kolan turned to the man in the corner and began explaining how he had done it. Because the whole situation reminded him so much of his own past that he just couldn't turn him down.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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Orion turned to face Hyuna who wasn't saying anything, something was eating at her, "Hey Hyuna, you okay? You look a little, I dunno, lost. If anything happened you know you can talk with me, I ain't gonna judge."

Hyuna shuffled her feet anxiously, not really sure how Orion was going to respond. She walked past him, almost in a huff, to make sure the orange idiot couldn't see her face as she felt her resistance against the urge to cry weaken. This was goddamn stupid, wasn't it? She sort of wished she could be back with the guild - but it's far too late for that now. "Nothing." She sniffled. "Let's go kill shit. Doesn't even -doesn't even gotta be a Yin."

Orion glarred at the girl, "It isn't healthy to deal with problems by just killing things, makes a person go crazy. Now stop with this circular dodging, if something is bothering you then spit it out."

She, still turned away, stopped her hurried walk. What the hell? Killing thing were the only things she could do during the war. If she didn't have that, she'd have lost herself in despair. With an angry clenched fist, she suppressed the urge to just lunge at Orion right then and there. "Who are you to judge me?" She spat. "Or d'you want me to wallow at a fucking failed l-love... confession! Should I- "Tears then burst out, and she rubbed at them furiously. "cry, like a weak fucktard? is that it?" Calming down just a bit. "I'm s'posed to be strong, Orion. All I need is to kill people."

That girl needed a hug, so Orion gave her one, "Child we can't all be the poets of our dreams and woo whomever we please. A confession isn't for our likes, we are warriors, for us actions speak louder and words, and the words will never be our subordinates. Crying isn't for the weak, it's for the strong, it takes strength to show our emotions." Orion released the girl from his hug, "Lets get some proper supplies and hit the road, we don't want to be around when the army comes investigating."

She let out a gasp of protest as the orange idiot wrapped his arms around her shoulders; weight pressing down onto her. What the heck... what was going on? Why was he... hugging... Hyuna stood there with a blank expression, not knowing at all how to react. The weird voice in her head, also, didn't respond. Hyuna supposed that it too, was utterly baffled at this. She wriggled a bit, testing the hold Orion had on her; but she really was more or less stuck. So she just nodded dully at his words.

"You're heavy." She murmured. "Let's get goin', I guess."

She shot an angry glare at the orange idiot. "Also! I- I wasn't crying! I just.... I just got punched in the eye and it hurts like fuck, that's all!"

And so, the two warriors left Jiefong via the north entrance, heading to Hanshan; wandering, mostly, not really knowing where to look next.




And so, the intrepid trio mark II kept walking. Gridiron was in front, with a stern step; Nee just behind, floundering and pattering. And behind the both of them, almost like a dark omen, was the living suit of armor, Amanhã, taking heavy pounding steps. They were following now, the path into Haraan Fields, and Nee breathed in the fresh smell of the grass and the plains. Almost instantly, she took advantage of the floral life surrounding them; pheromones drifting through the air, letting their minds slow down and rest. Nee, for once, let them drift to her, as well, and inhaled contently. She was too on edge recently. She had to relax, and think.

She had to reorganize her thoughts, put more checks in place to make sure the revolution and her allies went right. Valkar... he was going to have to be her trump card, wouldn't he? She was most confident in having him stand by her, than anyone else, even the NNA. Surely, he wanted to redeem himself; set right his sins. Because he truly isn't a bad person - just terribly mislead. But it's not too late to give him salvation. As long as he did what she, Nee, wanted. Although she wanted to avoid this - perhaps the only route was to use him and the Ku'Rannos as a threat to keep the Nobles in check. Rule by fear, until she managed to get power.

She let out a depressed sigh. She really wanted to avoid the fear route. Nee then turned to Gridiron demurely.

"What's the name of the border town where we'll meet your group?"




Valkar stood there, axe in hand, standing over quite a few corpses. Gore splattered the inn's entrance in Hanshan. He knew who they were - some of his slavers had apparently tracked him down and tried to eliminate him in his sleep. It was thankful, at least, that Riev and Lunan were still asleep. Breathing hard, Valkar wiped the blood off of his weapon, and sheathed it into it's strap.

What the hell?

Sure, the deaths didn't do much. But they did warn Valkar that something was going wrong with his slave empire. A power struggle. He could only think of two likely suspects; Moga, deciding to get ambitious, or Nee, if she managed to get away from Tiamat somehow, got herself back into Gwan, and started doing her wordplay to twist people's will around her own. Valkar didn't know which of the two was more likely, but it had to be one of them.

He hoped it was Moga. He didn't want to have to kill the girl.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Orion Shan
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"Not sure why I'm even bothering helping you with this." Lunan grumbled. At his father's urging, the young man and the slaver worked together to clean up after Cha'Valkar - the former slavers that had tried to kill him were not gone, stuffed into a river in strips of body parts. The man almost threw up - how could anyone just cut up a body so methodically like that? - but nonetheless, the deed was done. And no obvious evidence remained of the tussle. "You're a dirty slaver."

Valkar chuckled and patted Lunan's fuzzy head. It's been a long time since he really viewed his work as dirty, hasn't it? He was more or less used to accepting that things were the way they are, and that he shouldn't even bother trying to change things. Otherwise there was the threat of him being enslaved, wasn't there? Valkar looked Lunan over, the angry young man - quite a few times Valkar noticed some women looking at him over, and sure, the boy was conventionally handsome. But for some reason or another, he spurned all their advances; similar to how Valkar himself was in his younger days. And that rebellious spirit; the angry fire in his eyes, it was all him. Surely enough, Valkar was looking upon a younger version of himself. It was interesting, actually, to see someone with that naive spirit still persisting, even in adulthood. For most, didn't that get beaten out of them by the reality of life?

"Don't stare at me." Lunan spat, leaning against the door to the inn. His father, Kolan -or Riev, his real name at least - was still asleep. His illness was getting worse now, and to be honest, Lunan didn't know how long he still had to live. He wished his father could've just let go of his burdens and enjoyed life in his last years, instead of trying so hard to reconcile with his idiotic daughter. Lunan's anger burned deeper as her name crossed his mind. Hyuna. He'd loved her once; but after - after Yaeha, he just...

Can't forgive her for letting her die.

The next second, the door to the inn was kicked down - Lunan went flying to the ground as a man in orange, with a petite girl clutched to his chest, burst in, causing the innkeeper to shout out in indignation, about how much the door's repairs would cost. Everyone in the lobby area was now keeping their eyes on the orange man, as he removed bandages from the girl's chest - so much blood, and what a grisly wound - and as Lunan got up, he recognized his baby sister instantly.

Pain ruled Hyuna's world for a few instants. She was more or less unconscious, fading in and out of reality; dazed and not sure really what was happening. All there was was a long and oppressive cold weariness. That was all tossed away and she writhed against the stings and shocks of the healing chi. She had thought that healing chi was meant to be soothing, therapeutic, but this was almost as bad as the actual wound itself. She also felt the wound on her wrist being dealt with, and Orion wrenched the arrow out before tending to it. As the barbs tore through her skin on the exit wound, Hyuna let out a strangled, silent cry of agony, violently jerking with the sensation. Some blood gushed onto the table she was on, though. "Stay with me girl, " Orion urged. "Stay with me."

So Hyuna did, doing her best to stay aware. She was in an inn, wasn't she? Everyone was more or less staring at the scene they were causing - another shock of the healing chi made her squirm again, shuddering. Now that her eyes were open and a little clearer, she looked around at th- what the hell.

Brother and sister stared at each other, a myriad of emotions coursing through that one connection. Hyuna turned away first, tears burning as she remembered Yaeha, while Lunan felt more shame that his sister still couldn't own up to her mistakes, and face them.

"That's my sister." Lunan muttered, as Valkar noticed the mutual gaze. "First time in a while. Still as stupid as ever."

The slaver just nodded, and thoughts ran through his head on the possibility of capturing her. She had the air of a headstrong, cocky girl, and was also apparently, a fighter. Just the type for him to crush. He thought faintly of Nee, but then shook it away. She was still possibly a suspect, after all. Valkar patted Lunan's shoulder, before walking out the open door - the orange man and the little sister were now headed up the stairs-, and did his little whistle - the pigeon came almost instantly, ready to serve. The slaver hastily wrote down his message to Moga, figuring that one of the 'old guard' of the Ku'Rannos, and an old friend to his father wasn't likely to turn on him, and then rested his back against the wall of the inn, contemplating.

Lunan followed the orange man and his sister into their room. It was almost a shame that their father was still asleep... he'd spent so much of his health trying to get his baby girl back. But maybe it was better this way. He heard her voice -subdued and quiet - saying a bit of a thank you to the orange man. "Saved my life." She mumbled. "Sorry for getting hurt."

"Hey." He said curtly to the orange man. "Why, exactly, are you with my sister?"

Hyuna more or less stared at him. Why had he come to visit? She thought he hated her, no, wanted her dead for Yaeha's fate. And well, she deserved all of it, as far as she's concerned. Self disgust burned through her as she sunk deeper under the blanket that was draped over her form.

"Brother." She managed. "why-"

"Father's sick, you know."

Surprise ran through the spear girl, and she immediately shot herself up - succumbing to her weakness and collapsing back down onto the bed as a wave of dizziness overcame her.

"Probably best for you not to see him." Lunan said in a blase tone of voice. "The surprise might just kill him. Don't want to kill off another person I love, eh, sis?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Teri Serizawa Character Portrait: Sainko Khasai Character Portrait: Ten Fists Tuying
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Orion was sort of mumbling and rambling about nothing, really. Hyuna just regarded him with mild annoyance - what the heck? He utterly ignored her! And like this... wasn't - oh, whatever. Hyuna gritted her teeth, thinking hard. If Orion was going to be all drugged up like this, then wasn't he a danger? She took a glance at the broken inn behind her - her sick father and big brother were still around, right? A drugged up orange idiot... well, there was only one thing to do about that.

Said thing to do about that was take a sideways glance and see Tuying. Hyuna instantly fractured the air around her, changing her into a crippled old man; hobbling over his cane. While she melted into the crowd, she kept an eye out for Painji. She had to try and make amends to him, after all. Although, just like it was with Lunan, it was probably too late for that. Once out of eyesight of the cop ranger, Hyuna dispelled the illusion, back in form. It wouldn't serve to get imprisoned right now. And she also didn't have to worry that her family would get hurt - Orion didn't stand a chance against the cops in his drugged state. Sure, there was some regret from leaving him behind, but what else was there to do? He was a possible friend... and Hyuna wondered if she'd see him again after his imprisonment time was over.

Don't fool yourself. There's no such thing has friendship, for someone like you."

Right. All he was was a supply for potential victims. Not that that mattered now. Hyuna wondered where to head to now.

Somewhere else in Hanshan, a red suited man received a letter from his pigeon, too early for it to make sense. There was only really one possibility. It had been intercepted. Cha'Valkar took a stealthy look around, before opening up the new letter tied to it. This was potentially bad, because whoever intercepted it must have the coded one he sent to Moga. And there was a chance of the code being deciphered. And if that were to happen, he'd have to develop a new system for secret messages back and forth between his second-in-command.

Cha'Valkar.

It's Nee. Surprised? I'm still alive. I'm doing fine. Hope you are too. Amanhã, Gridiron, and I are in Harad. Close to Furoe now. In a few days we should reach it, and then they'll be gone. At that time you can come pick me up again. Because we're friends, right, no matter what anyone says.

There's also a blockade in place, so we can't get to Furoe easily via the Najjiro road. I suspect that Moga is trying to capture me, and subvert your power. It's safe to assume that he's in charge of the blockade.

I'm looking forward to seeing you again! You're my very first friend.

Nee.


Valkar made strange face as he read the note. Ignoring how Nee managed to get ahold of it - which is obviously a big question mark - how could she still consider him a friend? After what he did? Guilt boiled up inside of him again, and for the upteenth time he wished that he had just quit and accepted her offer, way back in Furoe. But now he - and by extension the little Nee - were suffering for the mistake he made. On the other hand, however... she's smart. Wickedly intelligent. This could very well be a part of her wry mind.

After thinking it over, Valkar sent the pigeon away to Nee, before being bumped into by a girl with quite a fancy spear. Her face looked familiar to two people he'd seen earlier; met up with a little bit. As she murmured an apology and made to move away, Valkar grabbed at her arm sharply, not letting her get away.

"What is it?" The girl hissed. "I already apologized, let go of me."

Feisty. A fighter. Primal instincts rose inside the slaver lord.

"You're Hyuna Ka-Nan." He said bluntly, making her freeze in surprise and stare back at him. Well, this was going to be fun.

"I have business with you."




"You'd make a poor little girl pay for you?" Sainko whined in a very... convincing way, making Teri regard her with very slight surprise. Not that it really was that important. She was just a good actor; it was a part of being an illusionist, after all. Teri chose not to respond - was there any reason to, anyways? "Fly us away, then."

Teri put her hands around Sainko's waist, and with a flutter of wings, they jerked roughly into the air, off the ground; dust scattering beneath them. Teri flapped harder and brought them higher up, enough to get a good view of the Market District. It was nice, being in the air again. Teri was pleased. It felt as natural as ever, taking away the overall bitterness of being a part of the Ruinguard. "I know a rather nice establishment not far from this very town."

As Sainko pointed it out, Teri flew in that direction, wind rushing past the two women as she faintly heard, from below 'whoa, is that a Tengu or a human?'

Both, Teri thought sardonically. If Sainko really was a human. At the least, the illusionist was human for now.

"To celebrate, perhaps, the onset of our... partnership."

Eventually the pair landed at said establishment, and watched at a bit of a distance, a man with the oddest accent, giving customers strangely colored cream balls on top of a wafered structure. Was this ice cream? Teri shot Sainko a confused look. "I'm assuming this is it." She said monotonously. "Right... partner?"

Teri landed on the ground, with a bit of a sigh. At least the ride was smooth. Not far from them, was a figure slinking in the shadows, in typical Ruinguard fashion. Teri didn't feel the need to point it out to her co-worker. What this implied, though, was that they were going to have to work together yet again.

"Never had this before." Teri struggled to try to add more than just plain curtness in her voice, but failed. "...mind picking out one I might like?"




Okay. This was stupid. Nee was too restless to just sit around in her room in the inn. She couldn't just lay down and sleep. She didn't even really want to at all. What she wanted was to be clean again, innocent again. But that's simply impossible. Lost forever. So the demure girl left her room and went back down to the bustle of the troupe. And oddly enough, zeroed in on Amanhã's steel figure, also seeming alone and barriered from the rest of them.

Maybe it was a possibility to befriend, or at least open up a way to befriend her. Unlikely, but there wasn't a reason not to try.

"Amanhã." Nee murmured. "It really is pretty loud here. If you want, maybe we could check out the blockade at a distance, see if the situation's changed?" She offered a kind, inviting smile, and felt a bit reinvigorated that she could control her expressions again.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Teri Serizawa Character Portrait: Sainko Khasai
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"The hell do you want with me?" Hyuna asked at last. Seriously, why was this badly scarred man here? Who was he, anyways? She ground her teeth in anticipation, tempted to just explode him into a fountain of gore and move on. This was just a damn waste of time, after all. she had a faint feeling that she wanted nothing to do with the red man - and wondered, what is up with men and being monochrome, seriously, Orange Orion and now Red...arm grabby guy. Distinctly different from old Red, back in prison, the damn asstard. But then, this Red seemed to have a similar level of annoyance. But one thing did bug her severely. How the hell could he know her name? Maybe that alone was worth some merit.

"Let go of my arm already, or I'll break you."

"You can try." The man said with an almost teasing tone. Hyuna's brow twitched. Damnit, she'd had enough. She wouldn't just try. She'd crush the hell out of this idiot. Hyuna, with an expressionless face, used her chi hand and started gathering wind to blow this red man away from her. Even if he knew her name, there was no reason for her to stay. Not as if she had any dark crippling secret worse than the one she currently suffered. And there was no way this guy could reconcile that.

The man let out a litle click of the tongue, before bringing his hand to wear the wind swirled. Before Hyuna had a chance to react - she was busy gathering up a large amount of wind in order to shear the man in half with pure torque, when suddenly flares swirled around and the inferno just nearly scorched her. From the man's hand, she saw a weak flare burst from the palm; but the wind seemed to feed the fire and make it roar with intensity; the head was incredible. Hyuna then put the fire out, with an angry scowl. Looks like that wouldn't work. And she wasn't looking to become a fried Hyuna. That'd just lead to her dying, and generally wasn't fun at all. She still had shit to deal with before dying. Before being allowed to see Yaeha again...

Okay. Maybe Hyuna didn't actually have much to lose by dying.

"Is that really all you can do?"

Hyuna stayed silent, brewing.

The man scoffed. "I was expecting a challenge too. Well, in anycase. Hyuna, you probably should say goodbye to your current life." He fished into his pack and reached for a dull green collar, dangling in front of the suddenly horrified girl. She stared, agape at it for a few seconds. Shit. This was bad. Maybe death really would be preferable. But the grip on her wrist was incredibly strong; she couldn't break out easily.

"I'm sure you know what this means."

Cha'Valkar didn't know why this didn't seem to help him as much as it usually did. Was it because Hyuna's spirit had broken rather quickly? He had no idea. But he suspected it ran deeper than that - that it was related to Nee. Sure, he'd get money and some power from enslaving the girl, but for some reason, breaking her in just didn't appeal to him. In fact, he felt almost disgusted at it. At the thought of doing it again. Was this also all of Nee's doing?

What was he doing?

"...Lucky for you, I'm not a real slaver." Yeah, some reason, she just didn't have the heart to clasp the collar around her throat. Her - very faintly scarred throat. "Employed by your father. Just make sure you be careful. A girl travelling alone isn't exactly the safest thing, these days. Real slavers." He released his grip on Hyuna's wrist.

"Wait, what the - How - hang on." Hyuna has suddenly confused. After hearing that this man was connected to her father - but also having her hand freed, she was torn. go for the kill, or just leave? It was a hard choice. But in the end, she wasn't even sure if she could kill him. Her spear hand was weird right now, and she had a figure his man wouldn't have too much trouble with her speed and mobility.

Even Hyuna new when to retreat.

"So... how is he?" She said, finally getting her thoughts together, doing her best to ignore the dark one. Funnily enough, when with people from her past - Lunan, people connected to her father, apparently, even Painji, the dark one was more subdued. Or maybe her own will was stronger. where did the dark one even come from, anyways? "My father. I heard he was... sick."

"He's doing well enough for his age." Cha'Valkar said almost dismissively. He really had no idea how to talk to a headstrong girl that didn't involve him breaking her. This was a completely new territory for him. "I must go now, though. Busy. Take care of yourself." Valkar turned to leave, under the afternoon sun of Horat, making a mental note to get his slavers to stalk and follow this girl. Sure, he couldn't do it in person any more, but his men certainly could.

He wasn't sure if he was disgusted or not.

Hyuna thought hard between going to check on her father, and simply leaving this town once and for all. But when her brother went into the calculations, it was high time to leave. And thus, with a burst of wind, the spear girl launched herself out of Hanshan, headed to whereabouts unknown.




Not for the first time, Teri wondered why she was putting up with this. Sainko had left to order the ice cream - whatever they were again, Teri didn't really know. She'd find out soon enough, in any case, right But in all honesty, she was tired of the stale Yune air; itching and longing for the fresh crisp air of Tengala. That was where she belonged, after all. Not in this strange, unknown place. The illusionist ordered a strange, multi-colored, almost toxic flavor, and then received a simple white one, presumably for the half-tengu.

Teri had the faintest idea that she was being mocked. Nothing she wasn't used to; not even when Sainko bent closer to the vendor. They exchanged almost familiar laughter and conversation - and Teri just watched impassively. Wouldn't be long until she could lower her mental guards. Few days at most. Back with Fuuta, she didn't have to be so reclusive. Most of the time. Teri idly gazed towards the Engara Peak, one particular mountain top of Tengala, and let out a wistful sigh. That one i particular had rather good air for flying and relaxing.

Few moments later, and Sainko was back, with both ice creams delivered. With an almost cocky smile, in Teri's opinion, she told the half-tengu to enjoy, and offered the white cream, and cold ball to Teri, who looked at it confusedly for a few seconds before reaching out and grasping at the treat with one hand - accidentally gripping too hard and breaking the cone. Teri instantly realized her mistake; ignored the mess, and decided to directly attack the cream ball. It was cold running down her thick skin, after all.

It was cold. Almost unbearably. But after that, it was oddly salty. And yet sweet. Peculiar. As if mystified, Teri's expression softened a great deal as she explored a sensation she had never felt once; almost looking as if she was enjoying herself. It was good. The cone was good. Crunchy. Would have been better if she hadn't demolished the treat. It was only after she finished - and cleaned herself off - when she realized what had happened, and brought her guard back up as quickly as she could.

"Thanks." She said. "It... was good. Might have to remember this next time the Ruinguard places me in Yune."

Unfortunately, her short and to the point conversation style was more or less ruined. This frustrated her. And in her frustrations, she temporarily forgot the homesickness she felt, losing at least some of her cold edge for now.

"Sainko. Right?"




A few seconds later, the living suit of armor with the oddly beautiful name of Amanhã stood up in her clinking armor, exiting the inn. Nee felt a little pleased- this wasn't going too bad at all. She still had her touch. Even if just a little. She had to make sure she didn't lose her only weapon... or else her dreams and aspirations would be all for naught. And that was bad. She thought briefly if she should thank Amanhã again for the rescue back in the dawn of the day - but if she mentioned it too often, it might also alert the steel enigma. So as Nee followed her out, she remained silent; wondering briefly if Gridiron even noticed that her sister and temporary protege had left.

As expected, as they left the outskirts of Harad, entering the Najjiro road, Amanhã was as silent as she'd ever been. The only sound was Nee's slightly labored breathing, struggling to keep up; and the incessant, almost hypnotic clanks and clinks of the plates rubbing against each other. It was strange, to say the least. Nee's thoughts drifted back to the guide from earlier. What was going on with him? Now that she looked back on it - there was something off about his smile. His inviting wave. The way he more or less knew on the top of his head, news of the Najjiro road. Nee had the faint idea that he was hiding something, but it was hard to tell what? Related to Moga? Possibly. Very possible, now that she thought of it. Despite looking rather Sudean, it wasn't as if the Ku'Rannos was only Gwanish men. There was proof of this in the now dead avian beastmen.

This was a conundrum.

"I'd like to become strong one day." Nee said idly; the pair now walking a bit slower, so as to not accidentally wander into the blockade's eyesight. While the road was mostly flat, there was a gradual upwards slope. This meant that the blockade, while having a better vantage view in general; wouldn't be able to tell who was where in a middling distance. And that was precisely where the slavey thing and the sociopathic murderer were. Theoretically, if they were careful, they'd be able to see the blockade first.

"You might not believe me." Nee's shoulders almost sagged a little as she said this. "But it's true. Relying on others, when I myself should be fighting... I don't like it. Not one bit. So I guess I might look up to you, even a little bit. Hard to believe it'd go like this, isn't it?"

A slightly sheepish grin; they were just out of getting a view on the blockade now. One more step from Amanhã and it'd be all over. Nee still had a bit more leeway, though.

"In a way, I'm glad we met." She turned her face away from the living suit of armor. "Though you probably don't think much of me at all... heh."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Lo-muna Vanhi Character Portrait: Hyuna Ka-nan "Falcon" Character Portrait: Millie Kiyare Character Portrait: Yamato Hibiki Character Portrait: Nee Me-Hyung Character Portrait: Amanhã Tiamat Character Portrait: Cha'Valkar Character Portrait: Rune Iyora Character Portrait: Teri Serizawa Character Portrait: Sainko Khasai
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The wolf-beastman sat back, alongside the rabbit and the tengu with something between interest and intrigue. Why did they need a map so badly? Did the guild somehow forgot to get talismans, despite being in this desert? They really should have known, right? It was borderline stupid, not getting talismans. How could they be unaware of the curse? She shook her head, watching as the mine carts went off - and Rune felt some mild affiliation with the one housing the bl- housing Suiken and Terra. They were her new guild after all, and Rune wanted to experience something like non-familial friendship pretty badly. And it's not as if this guild seemed to be bad people or whatnot - moreover, a lot of them seem kind. Though, the keyword is 'seem', and the fatalistic Rune wasn't going to overlook that.

In any case, she's here now, she's been brought back to life - what else could it be but fate? Any further effort wasn't really necessary, then. Although, when Lo-Muna did her cheer, Rune shrugged and kept looking - the witch seemed to have dealt with the interference rather spectacularly, with her earth chi. So she was also competent, right? You'd have to b, to be in a guild.

"Good job!" Rune cheered from where she sat, amicably, her tail whapping the seat. "I knew you could do it, Witch!"

Before she could get any rebuttal, she turned to the guild leader, Lo-Muna, with a slight shrug.

"It's a nickname, that's all. Those eyes, right?"




"N-No, It's...sort of my fault too," Millie's voice broke through the roar of the dark energy that was currently wresting for control of Hyuna's crumpled body. She could hardly hear it - yet heard it with absolute clarity at the same time. Her whole body was screaming and aching as she did her best not to give in, not to succumb to the dark one - fuck no, she was stronger than this. She had to be. Otherwise she wasn't worth living at all. Millie's voice shattered another vestige of the shadows, and Hyuna clung to it, as if it were a lifeline. "If I weren't around, you wouldn't have had to put yourself in danger for me. Hyuna...? What is it? Is something wrong? If you're feeling sick, we can get rest a little before we start moving."

That ray of figurative light was what Hyuna needed, and forced the dark one back to it's corner in her mind, and sighed in relief as the echoing roar in her ears dissipated, and she was back to normal, for the time being. Though, how long this would last was questionable. She shot some questions into her mind, and in receiving no answer, it seemed that the dark one was exhausted by the latest attempt, as well. Or perhaps... was it gone, completely? Time to experiment.

"It's fine." Hyuna said sharply, touching the claw marks on her arm and back, trying to gauge the severity of the damage. It wasn't as bad as when she had her chest clawed out, or when she got arrowed in the wrist - damnit, it still didn't feel right yet, how long would it take? - and decided that whatever injury she had was probably not serious. If it was serious, she'd have collapsed onto the grassy floor, crippled and dying. Anything less, and she was fine for pushing on, just a bit more. Just a bit more.

"You're safe, Millie." Hyuna said in a slightly strained voice, bundling the girl up into her spear arm, after hooking it to her cloak in back. "That's what matters..." She took the time to pat her head just a bit before using a burst of wind to shoot them up - and Hyuna made sure to see the dark wispy lines appearing with the wind, and scowled as she realized the dark one was still inside her - and set off towards the river where she'd last seen the guild.

"I hope Ann'll be surprised to see us again." Hyuna forced a bit of a laugh. "Yeah. That strange woman. Maybe she'll show an expression more than the one she always wore, huh?"




"With respect?" Valkar looked confused. "Wait, but-"

Riev let out a tired sigh. He'd woken up a while ago, but neither Lunan nor Valkar were willing to reveal that they'd seen Hyuna, not even to each other. Valkar, because he still wanted to capture her, and Lunan, because he didn't want his father to know how far she'd fallen. His daughter, nothing more than a thug now, a killer. A murderer. It had warped her to her very core.

Not that that's what mattered now. They were busy discussing on how to treat a woman they wanted to befriend. Lunan was more or less staying out of it; at times putting his palm to his face and shaking his head in the true expression of disappointment.

"Before she died." Riev said. "My wife really did enjoy it when I treated her kindly after being cruel to her." He smiled wistfully at his lost lover, briefly sinking into the fond memories. "The smile she gave... yeah. That's respect."

"...So be kind, after being cruel?"

"Yup. That's one of the ways I did it."

Valkar scratched his head, not really getting it. Moreover, could he? He always did hate the female sex, and how they were. Their whining, their complaining, all of it. The illogic they had at times, and not to mention during the moonflow week, when their negative aspects got even worse. How could anyone really try to understand them?

"It-"

A bird swooped in through the window, carrying a letter. Valkar quickly tore the letter off and read it, with Riev muttering, "ah, that Moga..." and Lunan looking in some curiosity.

That sounds like a plan. I'm glad to know it wasn't you, who set up the blockade. You don't have to use force to get me again. And don't think you have to use force, or the power of your empire for anything. Life doesn't necessarily work that way.

I am looking forward to being at your side again, so please treat me kindly!

Nee.

PS: Please learn how to write. It was hard enough to read your previous letter.


Valkar looked blankly at his two companions.

"Are my writing skills really that bad?"




Nee looked uncomfortable, but not unhappy, as she saw Gridiron and the others begin to mount their steeds. Even Amanhã more or less pulled her heavy form onto the horse Nee'd specifically chosen for her - not as if any other but the majestic Ashuran Thoroughbred would work, after all. She tossed the vigilante leader a bit of a grateful smile, before hooking her foot into the stirrup and propping herself up onto her own white stallion, petting it's neck once she was on.

She felt a little sorry for what she did to the merchant. But it didn't really matter, overall, did it? The ends justified the means. Otherwise she wouldn't be trying to embroil Yune into a massive internal war, right? Still, with the Yin family fracturing, Elan and probably Ukyo dead as well, she knew that her family now had dominance in all of northern Yune. IF she played her cards right, she could essentially enslave the other families economically - easily snuffing out most of the other northern families with no real effort. It was the perfect threat. Of course she had their loyalty, no noble wanted to lose their fortune. Though, in supporting Nee's ideal, they would end up losing their fortune in the end, anyways, would they not?

If any noble pieced that together, she'd have trouble keeping them reigned in.

As the five equines made their way north east, Nee more or less slumped down in her saddle. Why had she gone back for Gridiron? Why was she helping? She still, she couldn't think of any potential gain for all of this. None whatsoever. It wouldn't help her revolution - Gridiron wouldn't join her cause simply because of this, after all - and their friendship had already been snuffed out like a small ember being crushed underfoot. That's really all there was to it, at all. She had nothing from this venture - heck, she'd even almost directly killed someone. Nee shuddered as she realized that she really would have slit his throat if she'd had to. And this, somehow, was affecting her, while more or less baiting an entire blockade to their deaths was nothing to her.




The expression on Sainko's face made it clear, as she read the envelope. Teri sighed- yup for sure, she was stuck with more Ruinguard business. Why, she wondered, why her? She wasn't really showing off her real strength when any of them were watching, so how could - well, perhaps. Perhaps they somehow knew she never gave her all, ever. Perhaps they could calculate her actual strength, and perhaps they deemed it was strong enough to make use out of.

So tiresome. So irritating.

"Indeed," The illusionist said. "It would seem you are not so easily rid of me."

Teri grasped at the letter and gave it a cursory glance. At least, only for a few seconds. Because when her eyes glazed over the words scrawled upon it, she let out a slight gasp and made herself reread it. And then again. She still looked as if she was in disbelief as she handed it back to Sainko. That was their mission? Really?

What the fuck.

"Great." Teri murmured. "Let's get going, then."

The half-tengu once again took the form of the illusionist into her arms, and they made their flight eastwards, all the while wondering, exactly, how she could've landed herself in something deep like this. But... perhaps it was just fate. But she had the faint feeling she wouldn't be back in Tengala for quite a while. She sighed, preparing herself for the long haul.