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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Shu
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Shu ☕️

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The Fifteenth Day of the Month of the Moth,
Wan Yue,
404 Imperial Era

As the first of the fireworks erupted over Bianwei cheers rang out across the capital. Though the sun had set one bell ago this was just the beginning of Wan Yue, the celebration of the harvest season and the welcoming of the coming winter. The streets were filled with Folk, Honfokun, Zauri, and even the odd native Mokeu who looked to join in the nights’ festivities; to dance, sing, eat, drink, and revel until the first light of the next day. Merchants and peddlers crowded the streets and alleyways hawking both local and exotic goods. Children ran about trailing pinwheels overhead and fawning over toys and trinkets on vendor tables. Performers of all vocations took to the squares and balconies to entertain the masses with music, mysticism, and acrobatics. The air was thick with many drifting aromas including the the feint scent of black powder from above. The wondrous cacophony of sounds filled the souls of all within the capital and seemed to uplift all of Bianwei noble and commoner alike who now joined hands in merriment.

- -

Imperial Regent Jia Chong stood at the foot of the Ruby Palace, the grand stairs behind him like the ascent of a mountain. At his sides stood a manservant and one his favorite courtesans and at his back four of the Imperial Guard. Even in times of such jubilance after all one could not be too caring, especially a man of the state such as he. Jia Chong casually glanced up as another cluster of explosions erupted and captivated the masses, twinkling sparkles raining down like falling stars. A short smile etched across Jia Chongs’ face as he took in the scene before him, Wan Yue was among his favorite times of the year - perhaps even the favorite. He was looking forward to the night to be had, both in the city and in the splendor of the Ruby Palace. But first there was one last duty of the day he was to fulfill.

The Regent felt a tug at his sleeve and looked to meet the large almond eyes of his courtesan, “When will His Majesty come?” Her melodious voice cut through the entropy of a thousand sounds and was like silk gently sliding around Jia Chongs’ ears. “Soon,” the Regent smiled, “Emperor Xiao Shang still readies himself. The successor to Xiao Hui will soon enough be present before us.”

“I have never seen him so close.”

“This night you will.” Jia Chong’s smile widened.

At four bells after sunset every year the Emperor was to make an address at Wan Yue. He would stand atop a great platform, like the one now perched in the square before the Ruby Palace, and bless the gathered masses with his words of welcome and wisdom. Every street stone, window, and balcony would be crowded as the people gathered to behold their esteemed leader and hear him speak. With the end of the address the Emperor would then return to the palace and the rest of the night would be one of revelry and fun to be had. Of course it needed not be forgotten that there was more to Wan Yue than just the pomp and boisterousness of the yearly festival. It was a time of kinship and for the coming together of family and community. It symbolized the unity of the Eternal Empire and all of it’s subjects as the final moons came to rise on the year.

Jia Chong took the courtesan by the arm and motioned for his servant and steely eyed escorts to follow along. He half hoped for a taste of the festivity before making his final act of state for the evening but unfortunately there were no food or spirits vendors nearby - not even a table to grab a trinket for his companion. Fret not, he thought to himself soon enough. The seven approached the large platform which was painted red and built of sturdy cypress wood. They did not ascend the short stairs but merely stood nearby where they would await for the Emperor to arrive. First the great gong at the front of the palace would be rung and the word would spread that the Emperor was coming forth from the palace. The Regent was then to announce the Emperor upon his arrival and then His Majesty would speak forth. Jia Chong pulled his female companion closer as his mind whirled. So much preparation had he put into this years’ festival and he was quite proud of what he beheld. He remembered how honored he had been when Emperor Xiao Shang appointed him as this years’ Overseer of Ceremonies - a responsibility he had taken very seriously. Jia Chong had taken months to organize and spent a hefty sum of coin to ensure that this Wan Yue would be one to remember. His Majesty will be quite pleased. Jia Chong beamed to himself, nothing could go wrong.

"Once this... address is done, the night is ours?" Jia Chong's consort asked.

"Yes," the Regent said, his smile now reaching his narrow cheekbones, "though I cannot do without some rest tonight. I do have a number of affairs to oversee tomorrow, as Regent you see."

"Other than the matter of uncluttering." Jia Chong looked sideways at the woman who now grinned mischievously. Despite her sour jest the Regent refused to let the unwelcome concept of spending tomorrow returning order and efficiency dampen this night. He had worked hard to make this a joyous occasion and that it would be. Jia Chong kept the woman close in his embrace though found himself looking to the palace doors above longingly. He imagined it to be just short of two bells past sunset now, which still meant some time until His Majesty would venture forth. It was not just his own amusement that the Regent was eager to take to, he had been anxious since the day before to stand before the Emperor and bear witness to his reception as His Majesty bore witness to the fruits of his efforts. Seeing the approving and jovial eyes of Emperor Xiao Shang would be in itself a reward. Patience is a virtue. he thought, and so the Regent and his retinue stood to wait.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Penny
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It was entirely possible that there were more people in the square than Zolzaya had seen in her entire life. Her mind rebelled against the notion that even this green soft land could possibly support so many. How could straw hatted peasants grubbing in muddy fields feed this multitude? Where were their herds? So many beasts would surely blacken the sun with the dust of their passage. She sniffed at the air, tasting the bite of blackpowder, the sweet smell of frying rice, and the overwhelming sour stink of unwashed bodies and sweat. Zaya hated it. She wanted to smell the clean crisp of the coming winter on the steppe, wanted to feel the bite of the winds and the pound of hooves on the tundra. A trio of soldiers shoved their way through the crowd, weapons sheathed and faces bright with drunken merriment. They looked soft. One day, when the tribes were united, they would sweep down from the north and crush these weaklings beneath their hooves. Then her people would get fat on rice and drunk on cheap wine, their children would live to grow into pump merchants and their noses grow sharp for want of the steppe wind.

Zaya’s hand snapped down and caught the wrist of a child of perhaps ten years old in a grip like a wire snare. He let out a gasp of pain, his fingers a few inches from the leather purse that held her few coins. She stared down at him for a moment and saw tears start in his eyes. She shoved him back into the crowd and continued on, gripping the bridle of her mare in her free hand. The warhorse snuffled at the unfamiliar scents, flaring its nostrils as its hooves clattered across the flagstone. This place was as alien to Khiimori as it was to her, though admittedly the horse seemed to be handling it somewhat better than she was. The bulk of the horse made passage for her through the crowd, the clatter of hooves effective where hard looks from a small tough looking woman was not. She pressed her hand against the breast of her leather armor, feeling the wax sealed parchment concealed beneath it. She had assumed that she would simply march in and hand the summons, addressed to the ‘Chief of Chiefs’ to someone and they would take her to their Emperor. ‘Chief of Chiefs’ wasn’t the proper word, but these southerners did so love the formulas they dreamed up. Zaya supposed they were lucky that the wisewoman had the magic of reading. There was no way she was going to get near the palace tonight.

More fire blossomed in the sky above her and Khiimori flicked her ears in irritation. They pushed through the crowd and onto a long street lined on both sides with stalls covered with awnings of colorfully painted canvas. Smoke and the smell of hot oil and frying noodles filled the air as the cooks cried their wares, handing out food in little bowls of woven green leaves that did something to arrest the dripping grease. Meat seemed scarce save for a few vendors who were grilling what might or might not have been beef on long skewers, pausing occasionally to baste it in a thick sauce that smelled like peanuts and burnt sugar. Her stomach rumbled and she paused to exchange a few coppers for a bowl of rice and fried vegetables. Zaya ate with her fingers, disdaining the bamboo sticks that the southerns seemed to favor as useless frippery. Maybe she should find a…. What was the word? An inn? And wait till morning. Perhaps that would be best.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by SouffleGirl123
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SouffleGirl123 Getting older is realising my blurbs were cringe

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Fujiko stood at what she imagined would be the outskirts of the central part of the city considering it seemed to erupt in a maze of alleyway if you ventured any further, yet that did not stop the crowds tonight. Wandering vendors seemed to travel around her, ducking in and out of alleyways. She wondered how they possibly made it through the groups of people seeming to try and find some quiet to hear their conversations mirrored by drunken citizens stumbling around- laughing and singing at the top of their lungs. She was unsure how she felt about the chaotic display, on one hand the fireworks, performers and the sheer number of people that were here alone were impressive but the greatness of the crowd was near-nauseating. Many had to walk shoulder to shoulder and the scent of crisp Winter air was often replaced by the distinct scents of sweat and alcohol breath. Although Karitu did have its own festivities they never seemed to be as wild or crowded but that may just be her memory clouded by the rose-coloured glasses supplied by youth. She knew Tetruma would have loved this scene with all his pent energy and love of large gatherings.

Fujiko gave a sigh and placed a hand on the hilt of Otto Boyuja, her katana. She picked up a small contract in the capital of Yongcun of which included the festival of Wen Yue. The coinage was good and the man hiring her enthusiastically told her to still enjoy the festival. "Eat, drink, peruse, be merry! You'll likely just have to break up a couple of small fights and catch a couple of pickpockets!" he said. Fujiko was initially doubtful he'd meant the first half, yet the more she'd see a guard peruse the stalls or half drunkenly stumble by the more she was convinced. It wouldn't fly in Karitu, at least not in her father's cohort. No matter the event guards were expected to be professional and focused so seeing uniform guards wander so freely seemed off to Fujiko. Her eyes fluttered to the sky, filled with colourful explosions, perhaps she should try and let loose.

The closer to the palace Fujiko came the stronger the scents of spices and oil became. Her mouth drooled at the scent of well seasoned food. Perhaps she should get herself something to eat. She walked over to a vender selling rice bejeweled with cubed fresh vegetables and egg. "Got any pork to add in it?" she asks, the vendor seeming to give her a sour face for only a second before fixing his demeanour to be more gentle.

"Unfortunately not ma'am, I'm sure you can pick up some pork skewers further down and add it in," Fujiko shakes her head as she goes to her pouch for coin. She could never understand how the folk didn't favour meat in their food unless it were speared on a stick. Just as she had found her change she heard a yell from behind her and turned to see a drunken pair squaring up from a brawl.

"I'll be back," she sighs. The Honfo beelined for the two folk man who were already throwing fists. "Alright, break it up," she snaps, only steps away from the men but awaiting to see if her voice would snap the pair out of their combativeness before she had to physically intervene.

"Or what?" one of the men chuckles, throwing a punch at his rival, "You'll go tell your warrior husband? Shouldn't you be in the kitchen, woman" he slurs.

"That's it!" she snaps, grabbing the speaker by the collar and dragging him a few meters away before throwing him to the ground. He attempts to writhe out of Fujiko's grasp and punch her a few times but between Fujiko's dexterity and the man's fumbly drunken state she easily dodges his blows. "You, get out of here," she instructs the other man sternly. He seems to want to say something before deciding against it and taking off in the opposite direction. Fujiko turns to the one on the ground.

"What are you going to do, Hornhead?" he asks with a cheeky grin, "Bake me a pie," Fujiko squats down, maintaining stern eye contact with the man.

"You better be careful, boy," she growls, "Or the wrong Honfokun sword might end up in your face, may even be my pleasure some day. For now you are free to go, but next time I may not be so kind," With that she saunters away, the man yelling insults at her but she didn't bother to reply, her point was made and men like that could not be reasoned with. Fujiko returns the vendor she met with earlier and hands him some coin, finally getting her long-awaited food.

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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Haha
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Haha b E a N

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Festival of Free Pockets

“𝗔𝗹𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁! 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝘀𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗿𝗮𝗴𝗮𝗺𝘂𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗻𝘀. 𝗧𝗮𝗿𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝘀 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗼𝗳 𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗰𝗲, 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝗶𝘀𝗼𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱, 𝗮𝗻𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗲 𝘄𝗵𝗼 𝗹𝗼𝗼𝗸𝘀 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝗽𝗶𝗰𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀. 𝗜𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗰𝗵 𝘆𝗼𝘂? 𝗣𝘂𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗱𝗼𝗴 𝗲𝘆𝗲𝘀! 𝗜𝗳 𝗮 𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗿𝗱 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱𝘀 𝘆𝗼𝘂? 𝗔𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘆𝘄𝗮𝘆𝘀 𝘄𝗶𝗹𝗹 𝗯𝗲 𝗺𝗮𝗿𝗸𝗲𝗱 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝗮 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗸 𝗰𝗶𝗿𝗰𝗹𝗲! 𝗔𝗿𝗲 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗾𝘂𝗲𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀?” Ordered like a true dictator. Tomoe stood atop a sizeable stack of emptied wooden crates. Her chest puffed out and her diaphragm filled with oxygen to fuel the aggressive shouting aimed towards the small group of four young street rats.

”What ifs we not able to steals stuffs?” Asked a young brown-haired folk, his bright blue eyes blinked anxiously and his sandals scraped across the dusty floor beneath him.

“𝐅𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐢𝐬 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚𝐧 𝐨𝐩𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧! 𝐁𝐮𝐭, 𝐢𝐟 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐫𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭 𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐢𝐧 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐚 𝐩𝐨𝐜𝐤𝐞𝐭 — 𝐈 𝐠𝐮𝐞𝐬𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐚 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐢𝐟 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐠𝐞𝐭𝐬 𝐜𝐚𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐭. 𝐒𝐜𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐫𝐲𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐮𝐬𝐮𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐬, 𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐥 𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐭𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠𝐬.” The boisterous confidence of this wish-they-were ringleader probably seemed far more inspiring to her own ears. And then she spun on the wooden soles beneath her feet to face the steady flow of people passing the alleyway by without a care. These musty in-between of the city were great for it, hiding in plain sight.

Then the young thief bounced from her imaginary podium with a hand in each of her pockets. She marched past the small group of misfits and took the lead for them to follow, and they did, until Tomoe reached the edge of that current of people. They were all so fixated on the festivities, most with their eyes trained up towards the spectacles in the sky rather than beneath them. The small entourage dispersed, each kid clad in a small brightly colored kimono and a waxed paper mask. A shit-eating grin slowly spread from cheek to cheek upon Tomoe’s face, happily beaming the crooked pearls between her lips as she followed suit to the rest and entered the crowd.

Like a piece of driftwood she allowed the current to carry her to the larger mass of people. Her vulpine eyes noted every wallet and satchel she passed along her way. Some were intentionally light, locals who knew better would not bring so much to a large gathering like this. But others, especially those who were not so familiar with this city, did not take any precautions. Her small hands deftly found their way into a number of pockets along the way, feinting small innocent bumps and stumbles to dispel any attention. Eventually the ebb and flow would take her to the center of events where the largest crowd gathered.

“𝐌𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫! 𝐌𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫! . . . 𝐍𝐨-𝐧𝐨-𝐧𝐨…” Tomoe whined out.

Her form shrunk down as he hugged her knees and shook nervously. The big green eyes in her sockets snapped around her, clocking any cautious faces, and more importantly anyone who was concerned. Eventually a young woman pressed through the crowd and hunkered down with Tomoe, her well-done makeup and beautifully maintained raven hair painted her an easy mark. She was the daughter or wife of someone with wealth, most likely, and her arrival caused Tomoe to blossom out with the greatest of dramatics.

”Where is your mother? You shouldn’t be alone in a crowd like this!” The beautiful young woman’s tone was urgent, and her voice was hushed.

“𝐈-𝐢 𝐝𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰? 𝐒𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐣𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐚 𝐛𝐢𝐠 𝐟𝐚𝐭 𝐠𝐮𝐲 𝐛𝐮𝐦𝐩𝐞𝐝 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐦𝐞.. 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐧 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐠𝐨𝐧𝐞!” This was Tomoe’s most trained act out of her whole arsenal. Her eyes watered and her lower lip pressed out and trembled, practiced routines were the easiest.

The beautifully dressed young woman stared down with sympathy, unaware that this young girl was likely just a few years younger than herself. But still her delicate hand reached out to take the callused grip of Tomoe, and the young thief offered the wealthy woman a little squeeze of gratitude. But as the woman began to lead Tomoe out of the crowd, the wolfish grin crept back onto her lips.

Like taking candy from a baby.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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POOHEAD189 Warrior

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A Business Opportunity

As the fireworks burst and echoed across the teeming masses of the vast herd of folk that had congregated, Yazju hummed a bizarre tune of his home. He was almost unable to notice the gaiety and pops of the blackpowder toys, as he was very single minded in short spurts. Every once in awhile, he would look up in awe, mouth opening as he hissed in delight. But ever were his eyes on his stock, wary of pickpockets like a mother hen watchful of predators threatening her clutch. More than that, he wanted to be as attentive to any passerby that was interested in his wares as a Zauri could be.

A few had shown delight at his varied array of Omamori. He had spent many long hours carving them and granting them what blessings he knew to grant. One line of talismans depicted a plump elephant sitting up like a dog, and another line were shaped into a rotund but happy medicine woman who's likeness Yazju had seen once during his travels. He had accrued the wood to carve a dozen lions with the great demonic faces of the Yongcun Imperial Lion statues placed around the city. Lastly, he had wrought twenty small idols of Runiq, meticulously chipping at them until they were as smooth as marble, for he felt the great dragon watched his work.

After the initial few looks, and two purchases, no one else had so much as nibbled. A few had looked at his presence with concern, but he did not try and speak or gather more of their attention. Yazju had learned that was a losing proposition. Many were intimidated by his great form, though he did not understand why beyond his strangeness. He did not judge them for their stubby legs and tenuous builds, not to mention the lack of a tail!

No, he did not. In fact, he felt a kinship with the people of this vast land. They made merry in the streets, cavorting and dancing and talking, the worries of the day draining from their minds. They were curious of the world, like Yazju. Here, at the edge of the world, one could be whatever they wished if they but worked at it. Yazju watched the crowds of people with a tilted head when he was not fidgeting with his knickknacks, the items in question having been arrayed on a small table at the corner of a street connected to the grand square where all awaited the sovereign emperor to make an appearance.

A school of citizens passed by his small stall like the stream of a current through the ocean. A few of them stopped and spoke in hushed whispers, pointing at Yazju and a couple dark eyes examined his Omamori. Patiently he watched them, trying not to seem too eager. Luckily, his facial muscles were not so pronounced as to be noticed by the human eye. Five stepped up to his small corner, three men and two women. Behind the skirts of the latter, a small human poked their head out and looked at Yazju with curiosity. The group looked like laborers from outside the walls, or perhaps in a factory from within the capital.

"How much for one?" The first man asked, making his mustache wiggle like a caterpillar.

"Are they different prices?" The woman with the child asked, reaching down to take the hand of her offspring. The sight made Yazju miss his family back home. He pushed the thought away and stood up from where he sat. The people retreated in surprise, Yazju's heart stopping for a moment when he thought he had lost them. It also revealed the Dao and Wakizashi he had stashed behind his seat. Just before he knew they would run from him, he reached out and said. "Half price today!"

That had been a lie, but one he now made truth. If Yazju was honest, he simply wanted to sell his blessed talismans, large sums of money optional. The small exchange only garnered him a pitiful tally, but as he saw the little human walk away clutching her new Runiq Omamori, his tail wiggled in joy. Even still, he suddenly had the sense he was forgetting something, or was it someone? Wait, yes! Where was Fujiko? He had not seen her all day. He could not wait to tell her about the sale! He sibilated with excitement.

He felt she would be proud of him.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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Atalanta lsfables.com

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Bashira called her sword Bad Luck because it was the only thing she believed in. It was in every face she met, every turn of fate. More prevalent than the touch of any god’s hand.

But men like the one climbing the opposite side, well, they believed in a little bit of everything. Mercy. Benevolence. Self Control. Another half-dozen fancy words for slaughter. He was lily-pale and dark-haired, tall and swaying as bamboo. If he was here for anything, it was on a dare—strings pulled, coins in the right pockets. He probably called his sword Stiff or Blade-Up-My-Ass, and dreamed of building a collection of heads.

Well, he could try those dreams against the Demon of Bianwei if he wanted, but she wouldn’t have bet his blue-silk robes on them. Noble men often stepped onto the platform against her, and few of them left with anything to show for it.

Around the platform stood stands of wood draped in vibrant red and purple pendants. It was late afternoon and a festival day, so they were packed, the air thick with eager bystanders and the scents of fried dough and bean paste. More people stood at the edges of the platform, their eyes wide, round faces upturned, so many that they could not have possibly all been from Bianwei. The city was swollen, bloated—overflowing with the empire’s folk fluid. More even. There were tribespeople and Mokeu and Hofo among them as well.

Bashira’s opponent waved and bowed to the crowd, his face split with a beatific smile, but Bashira made no move to acknowledge anyone at all, her eyes forward, on this man and the space between them. She stopped five paces from the edge of the rectangular platform and stilled. Her heel hurt. Her stomach still gurgled in unhappy complaint from the alcohol she’d consumed the night before. Still, she felt strong, limber, ready. Just as she had before every other fight for the last decade.

She was half-suspecting that the general would show and find some way to stop this. It was impossible to say how he’d reached that position, how he’d dragged himself up from the mire of self-pity and senseless aggression, but the knots on his well-fitted dress uniform didn’t lie. Somehow, her father had acquired the resources to stop her, even if she didn’t quite want to believe it.

An announcer stepped onto the stage waving a bright festival banner, and the crowd quieted as much as any group that size could quiet, an ocean murmur rather than a roar. Bashira took a deep breath. Anticipation was stirring in her belly, spit pooling beneath her tongue. She was ready to move, to test her strength against this stranger’s, to cheat the kiss of a well-sharpened blade. The press of her demon half-mask was hot and damp, her breath caught by hardened leather smelling slightly of sour wine.

Still no army.

“Long Hiuping against Shinxi Bashira, The Demon of Bianwei!” The announcer’s shout faded into the screams of the crowd, their cheers, their disgust. These days, they liked to support Bashira’s opponents, the young golden boys against the older demon woman. Fuck them and their characterizations and whoever had decided this was about more than simple swordplay.

The general was out of time.

Hiuping bowed and drew his sword; Bashira did neither. In the space of quiet left by the crowd’s surprise, she flung her head back and shrieked, the sound a rough harpy wail that tore the edges of her throat and shot through the arena like a flight of arrows. When she was young and new and more full of herself, great swaths of the crowd had screamed with her, a chilling echo. Not anymore! Technically, the match had already begun, but Hiuping didn’t attack while her neck was bare to him. None of them ever did.

A pity, really. Lost opportunities.

Then, a series of exchanges. Hiuping charged first, but Basira had her sword unsheathed before he reached her, shifting with a careful economy of movement—only enough energy to be in the right place, at the right time, at the right speed. Charge. Thrust. Parry. The swords didn’t so much slice through the air as flicker, flashes of silver light.

Official matches went only until the first glistening red smear of blood down a long silver blade, a cut on the arm, a scratch of the thigh. The first person to land a blow took the winnings. Noble, they said. Civilized! It was still just two bodies, each striving to come out on top.

Hiuping’s body was a gallery of openings, his sword forms big and showy. Every move telegraphed in his elbow or shoulder. She side-stepped his thrusts, parried his slashes, tore long rents in his flowing sleeves. And her heart was singing. This was where she belonged. The only place in all creation where she knew precisely what to do.

They had moved around the ring, sliding, light-footed like dancers. Hiuping was fast for all his flashiness, and sweat pooled beneath the tight wrap around Bashira’s chest. Hiuping’s hair had fallen forward, a dark strand cutting the center of his forehead, flying back as he struck at Bashira’s calves. She leaped over his blade, panting, her stomach in gurgling knots. Perhaps the alcohol was getting to her after all.

Bashira rushed him, sliding her blade down the length of his to cut his hands or collar or gain control of his throat. He side-stepped the move, breaking away and turning to face her. She turned as well, their positions reversed again, and the piercing shine of the sun’s fading light caught Bashira’s eyes. She shook her head, eyes squinting. She wasn’t stupid enough to look away.

There was a flash of silver, a falling half-moon, and Bashira reacted on instinct, her heart pounding in sudden fear.

She didn’t want to die.

Blood sprayed her face, warm and sticky. No longer could Bashira smell the must of last night’s wine. Just sweat and salt and iron. She’d killed him. No. She couldn’t have, couldn’t have killed him, so why was his head lying gurgling at her feet, blood pooling around her sandals? She hadn’t felt the resistance, the subtle push-back of bone against a highly sharpened blade. Her sword wasn’t bloody, was it? No. No, look. Just spatter, just the spray, smeared by movement.

“Look,” she turned to a truly silent crowd. She wanted to tell them to look, to see that she hadn’t done it, that she hadn’t killed him, but their eyes were on her anyway. For a second, she saw herself through their eyes, the demon they had made her, the demon she had pretended to be, that they had rallied behind at first and then grew more and more wary of through the years, watching the fall, watching, expecting her to break.

City guards shoved past them, pushing towards the stage, and Bashira knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that she couldn’t go with them, couldn’t, or she would be guilty even though she hadn’t done this at all. It had been a setup. Hadn’t her father warned her? That coward. She had to find him first, force him to admit to doing this to her. She wasn’t guilty. They would have to see.

Before the guard reached her, Bashira leaped from the platform and into the crowd, heading towards the palace. No one stood in her way.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Kassarock
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Kassarock The Conquering King

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The reception dinner was a restrained affair compared to the outpouring of general merriment that could be found outside. The delegation of Karitu's high nobility had booked out the upper floors of a well appointed inn overlooking the plaza that lead to the Ruby Palace. Important members from two dozen clans, including several Tochihai and the Seshkyo's own brother, rubbed shoulders with their Folk counterparts from the Imperial Capital.

The finest and oldest families of Karitu were all represented here, and representing the Ishiya, was the venerable clan's young heir apparent, Ryutaro. As he picked at his food and listened to the droning murmur of polite conversation, the slight youth's crimson eyes could not help but be drawn toward the open balcony doors, and the festival beyond them.

Outside there was a world of mirth and excitement, it was his first time in the capital unaccompanied, and he longed to explore it. But he was not here for his own longings and desires. He was here to reaffirm the bonds and alliances the Ishiya had with the nobility of Bianwei, and to offer tribute and submission to the Emperor. But that would come later, first, there would be plenty of 'mingling'.

He almost sighed at that, it was not one of his favourite activities.

While lost in his own thoughts there was a lull in the conversation. Ryutaro tore his eyes away from the fireworks in the night sky to the portly Folk nobleman seated to his right. Lord something of Domain such-and-such. He had been talking at such length about agricultural exports Ryu had almost forgotten that he had been included in this particular conversation. Did they expect him to say something? Had he been asked a question?

"My apologies, I did not quite catch what you were saying, my lord."

"As the designated heir of the Ishiya, surely you could put this mat-"

"Heir apparent, my lord." He quickly interrupted with an apologetic smile. "My grandfather is yet to formally designate his successor. But rest assured, no matter whom succeeds him, the Ishiya clan shall treasure the continued friendship of your family."

The portly lord harrumphed and stroked his beard before launching back into another long monologue about rice tariffs to anyone around him who would listen. Once he deemed he was safe from being drawn into another discussion, Ryu allowed his eyes to drift to the balcony once more.

"Are you watching the fireworks?"

The voice this time came from his left, on that side he had been seated next to a Honfokun girl of a similar age to him. He didn't know here particularly well, though he was reasonably sure that she was some cousin of the Nakamuras who lived in the capital. A decent match potentially, Ryu was sure he saw his grandfather's hand in this.

"Oh errm- yes, they are... very pretty." He tried not to stumble on his words, but they still came out awkwardly. He had to get a hold of himself. Now was not the time to make a fool of himself in front of all of Cimanu and Bianwei.

"I was watching them too." She smiled at him, he supposed she was pretty too. "Perhaps you could accompany onto the balcony? We could watch them together, before the Emperor makes his speech."

"...I would be delighted to."

He rose from the table in the graceful motion and extended one hand for her to do the same, before he lead her out onto the balcony.

He had found himself a date. With a girl. Great.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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Bó had always liked to wiggle his ears for, just as with the Folk, it was an ability not very common among Mokeu. Today however was the day he once more noticed just how limited to mere aesthetic effects this was for he really would have preffered to turn them away from every fireworks explosion altogether. That however was something only the felines in this city could do, but those had been clever enough to seek refuge from the neverending stream of visitors flooding the place altogether. It was loud, the plazas overcrowded and the air malodorous because of all the meat being cooking in an unimaginable number of variations.

How could they even eat this ? Bark and plantlife in general were just so less complicated to grow and prepare, but maybe they were just too many people in too crowded a space to have any forests left to feed off ? Yet at the same time Bó could also just admire those in the Empire, for the whole situation of festivities he found himself in right now was a very strong symbol about what his own kind lacked so badly: unity. Compared to the steady in-fighting, the Empire and Folk in general were a miraculously efficient entity.

Unless it came to actually serving some damn meals, that was... Bó had positioned himself in front of a rather large stand with several men hectically serving food to their guests, but by now he felt some strain in his legs coming up for they weren't accustomed to stand still for so long. Or was that just a fake feeling made up by some other part of his mind to convince him to give up the effort of eating something here and go on ? It must have been a lot of minutes by now and still one bowel after the other found its way into the hands of some individual who he was convinced had only started waiting for it after him. They were doing this on purpose!

So very efficient again after all, just not the way he liked ? Inadvertently ignoring yet another fireworks' explosion somewhere above his head, Bó dared to step closer and started to track one of the men staffing the stall with a distinct stare of his amber eyes. He'd get this individual's attention one way or the other...

"What do you want ?" the man's chesty voice ultimately asked, exposing a fair degree of annoyance along with his words.

"Food." Bó borderlined on just snapping back because he onyl realized at the last moment that adding provication to one's own provication would do no good to stop the other one from provoking. He slightly rolled his eyes as if they actually featured much of a clearly distuingishable pupil to make that visible. "A more orderly handling of the queue would suffice for the moment as well though."

The man laughed and some others behind the counter joined in, but not all in the queue did. Some of them just turned their heads and dared to give a subtle nod towards the Mokeu towering over their heads. Bó figured it really didn't take a genius to discover that most of those seemingly agreeing with him had spent a lot of time here as well without really getting to move forward. What was this here ? A competition of who was the most cunning and audacious ?

"Food ? We don't have any tree parts here, just rice and meat! But... some of the city's more outside parks might be pretty unguarded at the moment. You could try there!"

Bó hissed, baring his sharp teeth that had more in common with that of a feline than his ears, probably. There were some alley trees around here, too, but... harvesting them ? The man with the rice and meat had a serious point about the guards. And who knew if their bark did even have a good taste to it! Maybe it was even riddled with worms and bugs and whatnot he didn't like!

On the other hand his stomach was on the verge of starting a clearly audible rebellion at this point, so he had to do something about it now. His place in the queue was worthless anyway give how things were handled here the Mokeu deemed, so he set off -- for one of the alleys. He'd just have to wait for the right time and snatch away at one of those lovely plants. What did he have this knife for after all ?

As Bó proceeded, the large mass of people seemed to ignore him for the most part. It was such a dense and steady stream of people that those unfortunate enough to be inside of it had their vision blocked by the remainder, and the remainder in turn was too busy talking or admiring the fireworks to divert significant attention to a reddish-brown Mokeu casually leaning against one of the alley's trees. Yet as he slowly pulled his knife out of his pocket in order to start carving up a bit of the soft bark in the somewhat hidden space between his flexed back and the tree itself, one very guard-like looking individual worked his way out of the masses indeed.

Or rather: crept. A single glance revealed that the person, without the involuntary support of other people cramped around him, was listing even more badly to one side than a sinking ship. Yet at the same time some residual traces left on the man's beard also told a story about that state having persisted despite at least one very successful effort to get a lot of excess liquid off board again.

Bó discarded the guard theory. The city guard just couldn't be rotten like that, this had to be a visitor in arms. So he proceeded with his plan and found his worries taken off him completely when the drunkard just stretched out his arm to find some desperately needed support at the tree and bent down in a very foreboding manner. Fine! That would leave behind a perfect distraction until it'd be impossible to backtrack him.

Bó felt triumphant as he returned to the stand. He waved with the small chunk of bark and stretched his arms over other people's heads as far as he could so to get his meal into the vision of somebody who was serving stuff. "Here I am! I want that fried in some decent fat, covered in rice and garnished with some good spice! You didn't tell I couldn't just bring my own food, did you ?"

Did he have their attention now ?
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Shu
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The port…

“It is time.”

Ubagai Wakuno was smiling before he even heard the words spoken by one of his companions. For he knew it was time. The fireworks had stopped and it was a few short breaths after that the great gong of the Ruby Palace could be heard announcing the coming forth of the Emperor and thus came the observation of the man at Wakuno’s right side.

Wakuno and three other men, all three Folk, stepped off from the small boat on which they had arrived at the riverside port of Bianwei. The three Folk wore tightly fit deep gray and white robes and their faces were cowled by white cloth veils. Wakuno was clad very differently in robes as black as night with a flowing cape and hood draped about him. On his face was a blood red mask bearing the visage of an Oni - a dreadful giant yaoguai. The four had not moored their boat at one of the empty piers but rather pulled alongside a small fishing vessel and now stood on its single deck. They did not tie their boat to the side of the fishing vessel but rather left it to drift free as they would not need it anymore. They watched as a night guard passed by, a burly Folk with a bald head and a greasy black beard. In his left hand a small lantern to light his patrol and in his right hand a polished spear. Once he was out of sight the four whisked across the deck of the fishing boat and then onto the pier with short hops over the waterline. They quickly ducked into an alley between two storehouses and, satisfied they were out of sight, slowed their pace as they plodded in towards the heart of the city.

The gong had stopped as by now most all of Bianwei had heard it. Word would soon spread to the outer reaches that the Emperor was about to make an appearance and this would draw the masses in towards the Ruby Palace. After darting across an empty pathway on the far side of the alley Ubagai Wakuno and his fellows shimmied up the side of a small house. They knew the streets would only be fuller the closer in they went. From here they would speed themselves across the rooftops all the way as they headed for their destination - the palace.

The four relied on the closeness of the buildings as Bianwei was a massive city. That said some gaps would be wider than others, too wide to jump over. Of course for those so trained as these men there were always alternate routes - such as swinging on a tapestry, bounding over still carriages, and balancing across beams and ropes. Some buildings if too high could be climbed by using windows, eaves, and balconies as footholds and platforms for ascent. The four stayed close together as they closed the distance between them and the Ruby Palace, the endless sea of moving people beneath them oblivious to those above them, as well as those among them.

“Most of our brothers are among the masses, yes?” asked one of the men as he hoisted himself over the edge of a rooftop to stand with the others, the four stopping to take a short breath.

“Yes,” Wakuno said, voice oily, “but there are others who have taken to the heights as we have. Have you seen them?”

“No, Brother.” came the reply.

“Good,” Wakuno grinned behind his glaring red mask, “if you did then they would be unworthy of being here.”

Wakuno turned to face the towering Ruby Palace his unseen eyes filled with both hate and anticipation. They were nearly there, just four large buildings between them and the home of the Emperor. Tonight all of the plans laid by he and his masters would bear their fruit. His brothers, hundreds of them, even now all sifted among the people of this cesspool of a city and awaiting one signal. With that one signal Wakuno would steal away the plot of history itself, with that one signal Wakuno would change Karitu, Yongcun, and all the other lands of the known world forever. With that one signal he would announce the end of Emperor Xiao Shang’s life and the fall of his wretched dynasty.

“Come,” Wakuno said, voice laced with a murderous eagerness, “just ahead. They are waiting for us.”

Imperial Square…

As Emperor Xiao Shang reached the top of the grand podium in the Imperial Square the cheers grew even louder than they had been when the Emperor's litter first began it's slow descent down the stairs, flanked by a procession of Imperial Guard clad in red plumes and cowls. The fireworks had ceased as had most all of the fanfare of Wan Yue. When the gong had first rang and the calls went out the people had all came surging forth in a tidal wave of bodies, pushing and shoving as they rushed to lay their eyes upon the Emperor, descendant of the mighty Xiao Hui and all of his successors.

As the litter was placed at the foot of the large platform the Imperial Guard had formed a shield wall around the square and pushed back the onlookers, keeping them at bay to protect His Majesty. The only ones who stood close to the platform was the Imperial Council in full as well as a number of royal title holders, including Sword Master Keola - the renowned Zauri warrior towering over the predominantly Folkish court and surrounding guards.

Every window, doorway, and balcony in sight was crowded out by the subjects of the Eternal Empire as was every standing space encircling the square. The cheers, shouts, and excited jabber was dying down as the crowd collectively began to hush itself to hear the Emperor speak - His Majesty now raising his arms out in a gesture of embrace.

“My people,” the Emperor's words carrying filling every mind and heart with a rush, “I smile upon what I see here this night. It is warming to my heart to see you all gathered here in this magnificent city together. I smile as I fill my eyes and soul with the jubilance and joy of your revelry and celebration here. The spring and summer moons have passed and here tonight we welcome forth the harvest moons and the coming winter moons.”

The Emperor gave a pause, the crowd filled with murmurs and nods, many up close stood on their toes to see over the shields and helms of the tight ranks of the Imperial Guard. At the back of the crowds and in the streets there was still a constant pressing of people, both those from the outskirts and recent arrivals, here to at least see their Emperor if not hear his addressing of Wan Yue. Emperor Xiao Shang knew himself that many would not see or hear him, but he still saw no harm in prolonging his presence for those last ones who might.

He began again, “Drink deeply, feast well, and take pleasure in the boons and bounties of our great Empire that are present here this night. Let your heart grow tender and comforted in knowing that those who are not here in Bianwei are still blessed by the spirit and joys of Wan Yue, the blessings of home and hearth know no distance. But in your celebration this night do not forget what the true spirit of Wan Yue is…”

The crowd pushed as close as they could, some people pressed against the shields of the guard who in turn gave hard shoves back - to little mind. Nearby Regent Jia Chong stood beaming from ear to ear, eyes back and forth between the crowd and the Emperor. The regent had little fear of crowds but for some reason he suddenly felt some pang of unease. After a moment he pushed it aside as mere nervousness and retrained his focus on His Majesty’s address. Everything was looking to be splendid.

“Wan Yue is where brother and sister, parent and child, and neighbor and friend all come close. To share in their thanks for the fruits of the harvest and for the company of their kin. We the peoples of the Eternal Empire all have much to appreciate and we take this day - this night - and the coming ones to show our appreciation. But even then, there is more still to Wan Yue…”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Shift
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With the last of the heavy crates placed in a neat order along the outer walls of the barn, Cai heaved a sigh and turned only to find his employer overlooking his handiwork with a satisfied expression.

“Thank you, Cai-Su.”

Cai sighed once more, but this time not from the physical effort he had exerted, and refrained from rolling his eyes at the short, balding man before him.

“Just Cai, please, Lao Fang. Zhao-Fu isn’t here to correct you.” It was the first year Cai had worked the fields without his mentor.

He had tended Fang Xiaoli’s rice harvest for the past two moons, much as he had for the last few years. The Folk was a kindly enough farmer whose sons had departed their home in pursuit of their own futures, which apparently didn’t include farming. Cai couldn’t blame them for choosing something different than their father wished for them, and truth be told, if they hadn’t gone, he wouldn’t have the job he’d just completed.

Zhao-Fu had discovered that the man required assistance in the fields during the spring and harvest seasons three years prior and successfully secured a contract for the foreseeable future. It was a welcome find to have the comfort that came from a secure job on a yearly basis. Especially after Zhao-Fu’s strength declined to the point where he regularly remained resting in their shared home on the other edge of the city. The walk alone had proven too tiring for him at the end of the previous year.

Since then, Cai had been hard pressed to secure other contracts on his own, making this job all that much more precious. Two Mokeu were a better deal than just one, he supposed.

“Ah, yes, that’s right but it’s become habit after all. Come,” Fang said with a good-natured smile, motioning to the barn doors. “You’ve worked well past sundown and the festival is in full swing. If you leave now, you might be able to catch the fireworks.”

Cai had to restrain himself from sighing once more to refrain from offending his employer. It was the same every year. He never cared much for the celebrations of the Folk, but for whatever reason, the citizens of Bianwei and any surrounding cities for that matter, seemed to celebrate Wan Yue with more fervor than any of the other festivals. The city streets would surely be packed with visitors and citizens alike, clamoring at the food stalls and crowding the activity booths. It wasn’t an appealing prospect, especially when Cai was certain he’d be met with stares and followed by whispers of discontent if not outright discrimination. He’d learned early on in the Yongcun cities that drunk Folk were not always the friendliest, and many drinks would indeed be served tonight.

The farmer must have taken his silence as consent because he took the Mokeu’s hand then and pressed a few more gold pieces than was owed into Cai’s palm. “Get some sweets and enjoy your night, my boy!”

Feeling awkward, Cai bowed his head respectfully. “Your generosity is much appreciated, Lao Fang.” Zhao-Fu had taught him to utter the phrase whenever he was paid, though he didn’t use the polite address to any of his other employers.

The man chuckled and pushed Cai further away from the barn. “Yes, yes, you’re welcome, Cai-Su. Now hurry! The first of the fireworks have begun.” As the man pushed, the explosions from the center of town could be heard even from the outskirts of the city where they were and the sky was lit briefly in bright hues of red, blue, and yellow.

Cai bowed once more to his employer before turning away and heading toward the center of town. At first, he did so with only the intention of making it appear to Fang Xiaoli that he was indeed headed to the festivities. But as he approached the growing mass of Folk, it occurred to him that he might stop at a stall and get some sweet plum wine for Zhao-Fu.

Sweet plum wine was his mentor’s favorite, and he had always made a point of getting some during the festival, even if Cai hated being among the throngs. In his current condition, he wouldn’t be able to continue the tradition this year, and Fang had given him a few extra coins than anticipated…

With a resigned sigh, Cai steeled himself for the crowds as his feet refused to change direction and continued leading him toward the city center.

To his luck however, the gongs indicating the emperor’s speech rang out shortly after he’d made headway toward the main stalls and the numbers of merrymakers diminished quickly as they all flocked to the Ruby Palace.

A contented smile played on his lips as Cai approached a short line for a spirits vendor. Zhao-Fu would be pleasantly surprised.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Shu
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Tsio Bu walked with swift, considered steps as he moved in flow with the surging crowd that was pouring through every street and alleyway in Bianwei, like water washing down through the cracks and eaves of a house during a rainstorm. Despite the constant brushing of shoulders and elbows against him he maintained a forward and balanced stride, the occasional bare foot or shoe would scrape against his heel from behind to his annoyance but he continued on. The tall slim Folk pulled his straw hat down lower over his face as he placed his right hand firmly on the hilt of his sword, a masterfully forged blade of Honfo craftsmanship. With a forward shrug of his shoulders he adjusted the dingy brown robe he wore which had begun to slip amid all the pushing and shoving.

Tsio Bu’s eyes were constantly darting about as he walked taking in any face that could become clear to him if even for a moment. He was looking for no one in particular but merely searching with a mixture of curiosity and anticipation for anyone he might recognize among the masses as he walked among them. Tsio Bu had arrived in Bianwei the day before but had avoided the streets entirely retreating to the seclusion of a rented boarding house room, this was the first he had been out and about since then. It had been a long journey from up north and he wanted to conserve all of his strength for what was to come. As he stepped around a band of rowdy children that came scrambling by Tsio Bu then had to take a hard step the other direction to avoid bumping into a towering blue-scaled Zauri that was browsing over some fine silks being pedaled by a vendor. In doing so he stumbled at the feet of another peddler who had sat themself across the street selling shoes and other foot wares. As he caught himself and met the peddlers’ eyes Tsio Bu froze. Staring back up at him was a young Folk woman with deep brown hair and a shapely, chiseled face, narrow high-arched brows sat over her brilliant emerald eyes. One would easily call her radiant if not beautiful. The woman had reached with protective impulse for her wares but even as she looked into Tsio Bus’ own eyes her expression was calm and oriented.

“Forgive me.” Tsio Bu forced out through his tight throat holding his gaze.

The woman merely nodded as a smile etched across her visage, her unnatural sea green orbs seemingly glimmering as the recognition looked to be shared. Tsio Bu straightened his robe once more and whirled on his feet, tossing a quick look over his shoulder as he melted back into the moving crowd. He had seen that woman before, many times in fact. Even if her face had been lost to him one could not forget those uncanny eyes - and then there was that look she gave Tsio Bu, one of knowing. Many times in the past year had he crossed her path in the training yard, she always had looked to be an ample fighter. Thinking back on it never had Tsio Bu sparred with her before. Perhaps if they both survived this night that could change on his offering.

Tsio Bu craned his neck upward up as the Ruby Palace came into clear view, the awed remarks and chattering of those around him filling his ears.

“It is beautiful!”

“Truly a testament to the great Xiao dynasty!”

“It is like a beacon shining across the land…”

“No, a tower of vigilance, a sentinel for all the subjects of the Empire!”

Each giddy phrase sent a hot wave through Tsio Bu as he found himself pushing a bit harder through the mob now as the palace loomed closer and closer. Towering, bright red in the night, and a symbol of power - or rather oppression as well as blasphemy. If one were to ask Tsio Bu for his ideal comparison he would liken the Ruby Palace to a Mowang, the insidious demon lords that lead the yaoguai against the mortals after separating them from the gods hundreds of years ago. A fitting likeness indeed.

The Imperial Square was just ahead, the crowd so tightly packed together now it was enough to stifle one’s breathing. Tsio Bu felt his arms pushed tighter against his sides, squeezing the grip on his sword firmer he pulled his free hand and arm in against his breast as much to avoid it being caught or broken as for comfort. He grounded his teeth hard together as his eyes carried over the impossibly large mass of people. Thousands of fools all piled together to gaze upon the mere mortal that was the Emperor Xiao Shang, whose fragile mortal heart beat no different that theirs and whose mortal blood was also just as red. And yet all these misguided simpletons looked to him as a living god as all the fools before them had looked to each of the past emperors as such. It was sickeningly arrogant.

But soon all things would change. The age of the blasphemous and the foolish would end and the new dawn would come as surely as the great gong that had rung hailing the arrival of the Emperor. Even as Tsio Bu became more compressed against those around him he felt a rising surge of eagerness as he saw the fleeting images of more recognizable faces. His brothers were with him - the time was now.

Wait for the signal. Tsio Bu reminded himself as his fingers drummed anxiously against the hilt of his weapon.

- -

Ubagai Wakuno traced one thumb down the side of the rocket in his hand as he and his three fellows looked down on the Imperial Square from their viewpoint atop a nearby building. Wakuno did his best to keep his breathing steady and his hands still. He was not afraid, far from it - he was about to herald the change of history and it filled him with a momentous sensation. He suppressed a shudder as he turned his head to look over the area surrounding the square. Even as high as he was Wakuno could see them, slinking atop roofs and peeking from the shadows - his brothers, all clad in white like those with him. And then of course there were those hidden among the crowd, most garbed as commoners of Bianwei.

Wakuno eyed the defenses around the Imperial Square. The area around the Emperors’ platform was entirely encircled by a fully armed and armored unit of the Imperial Guard and the platform itself had eight men close around it, plus the handful of guards protecting the members of the Imperial Council cronies who stood nearby. The walkways and balconies of the Ruby Palace had archers spanning them and Wakuno imagined every door of the palace save for the front entrance was sealed. Then of course there were the various guard patrols and sentries spread throughout the crowd and surrounding streets. Wakuno had no doubt that many would die in this effort but that was expected, he and all his brethren had come with a mandate and they were devoted to seeing it realized - giving their lives if needed. They had the element of surprise in their fold and they numbered many.

Cheers erupted from the Imperial Square as Emperor Xiao Shang finished speaking finally, extending his arms out and upward in a basking motion. Wakuno motioned for one of the men at his back who moved closer expectantly. Wakuno gave the spectacle before him one last observing look; the celebratory roar of the crowd intensifying, the Emperor standing tall and noble as he took in the deafening chorus of adoration, behind him stood the ancient Ruby Palace - a symbol of he and all of his dynasty before him. A symbol of decadence, blasphemy, and degeneracy.

With a sharp nod from Wakuno and a striking of sparks the fuse of the rocket he held was lit.

- -

Regent Jia Chong had just finished clapping amid the appraising roar of the crowd when he noticed a bright flash of light from atop a nearby building. There was a discharge of smoke and moments later a single rocket soared over the Imperial Square. The crowd noticed it too and many began to point and cheer as the missile reached towards the height of the sky. Jia Chong however grimaced, the fireworks had been ordered to cease until after the Emperor departed - not to mention the Regent had no idea what gowk had chosen to launch it from the top of a roof. The rocket exploded lacking the bright colors of the regular fireworks, but was merely a crackling burst of black powder. The cheers wavered out, murmurs rising as the Imperial Guard all exchanged glances as did the council.

No sooner had Jia Chong then noticed the shadowy figure rise up from the same building than an arrow came whistling through the air. A scream tore loose as Emperor Xiao Shang grabbed his right shoulder and crumbled to the floor of the platform, the arrow now protruding up from the fallen man - blood began to soak the front of his golden robes as he writhed around in pain. Cries of shock and fear rang out including from among many of the guard who had turned to see the cause of the commotion. Jia Chong felt a catch in his throat, his heart froze in his chest at what had just happened. The Imperial Guard near the platform rushed up the wooden stairs and dropped down around the Emperor, some casting their weapons away as they reached to lift up Xiao Shang. One of the guards shouted out over the growing panic, “He is alive! The Emperor his alive! He needs aid!”

More screams rang out suddenly as one of the Imperial Guard on the platform was hit by an arrow in the chest. Then another arrow, and then a third - the man then falling dead. Among the crowd the sounds of swords unsheathing could be heard as more arrows suddenly came raining down from the sky onto the line of guards that surrounded the platform. Over a dozen men dropped dead on the spot as others staggered about screaming and attempting to wrest the protruding missiles from their bodies. Others still were fortunate enough to raise their shields and deflect the incoming swarm.

Panic set in as the thousands of gathered people all began madly running, pushing, and trampling over one another to escape from the square. More arrows came down on the line of guardsmen, shot from across the rooftops and over small buildings nearby - the archers clad in white cowls and robes. The Imperial Guard on the platform all made a circle around the fallen emperor with their shields raised as more guards came pouring down from the Ruby Palace to help defend against the sudden attack. Jia Chong and the rest of the Imperial Council cowered behind their assembled guardsmen who had also made a shielded circle around them.

Bursting forth through the panicked crowd came scores of men, Folk and Honfokun, armed with swords, spears, and hand axes. Unlike the archers surrounding the square these attackers were dressed in an assortment of commoner clothing, some looking like little more than fishmongers or beggars. They charged towards the disoriented defensive line as the volley of arrows had stopped, the archers now exchanging shot with the Imperial Guard archers lining the palace walls. The clang of steel and crashing of shields filled the air followed soon by screams of agony as blood began to spill onto the stones of the square.

Jia Chong struggled to breathe as the pain in his chest and throat only intensified. His consort was nowhere to be seen nor were some of the rest of the council, those who were were crouched with him behind the guardsmen who were determined to defend the council with their lives. From where he was hunkered Jia Chong could see the armed attackers engaging with the Imperial Guard, they fought not like untrained peasants but with the effective skill of disciplined fighters, felling many guard. These were not armed rabble but organized warriors of some sort with the intent of killing the Emperor. Jia Chong could not see His Majesty from where he was, all he knew was that for the moment he lived and his guards stood by his side. The fighting only seemed to worsen despite the men who came down from the palace to join the fray and in mere moments bodies already littered the square, both those of the attackers and Imperial Guard alike. The thundering of explosions could be heard from nearby and Jia Chong could see smoke rising over the rooftops. Flaming arrows began streaking overhead illuminating the night sky as more explosions rang out both near and far. Everything was happening so fast, in a mere count of heartbeats the joyous Wan Yue and Emperor Xiao Shangs’ address had turned to a chaotic blood-letting.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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Atalanta lsfables.com

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Bashira needed a drink.

She leaned against the smooth wood of a creaking mid-city home, the alleyway around her dark and empty. Everything was so loud in this withdrawal confusion. The Emperor’s voice seemed to boom above the crowd gathered to hear him, screaming into the night, the people screaming back in cheers or anger, she couldn’t tell. It reverberated around her skull the same way a blow to the temple did. To say it hurt would have been an understatement—Bashira’s head was an agony of splintering bone-chip explosions.

The guards were probably still looking for her, but she’d lost them back in the southern quarter, not far from the platform where Long Hiuping’s death had been arranged. They’d never find her in this press—not with so many people and costumes and visitors. Even her unusual height would fail to give her away next to the towering forms of Mokeu and Zauri festival-goers. She was safe. But only for this one precious night.

One night to find the General and clear her name.

And her body was shaking, trembling against the wall she was half-using to hold herself up. Gods, she knew it wasn’t that cold, but her teeth were shaking, her hands numb at the tips of her unsteady fingers. Bashira had to clutch her hilt to keep her hands still, had to clench her teeth to keep them from chattering. She had already emptied the contents of her stomach in a similarly queasy dark alley.

Come on!

Bashira pushed herself up from the wall and jumped at the sound of her decorative pauldrons scraping against the side. She was all razor knife-shard edges, a volatile collection of open nerves. Fuck, she just needed something to blunt this barrage, to deaden the pain and the impossible whetted points of the world around her. But if she did, if she turned from her quest to save herself this pain, then she would never complete it. She’d be lulled into comfort or misplace time, and her opportunity would be lost.

She shivered and shook her head, forcing herself to breathe, to stop panting like a goddamn dog on the palace steps. Fuck! She didn’t want to have to do this! Why did the General have to intervene? Why did that idiot noble boy have to die?! She swallowed down a sob and shook the tears out of her eyes and berated herself for being such a goddamn child. She wasn’t her father. She could do this.

Bashira plunged into the crowd, flinching at every accidental touch from a raving stranger or every glance of a uniformed guard. She had let down her dark mass of black hair and hung her demon half-mask from her belt, but she still felt too fucking recognizable in this awful red and black dueling costume with all its ribbons and silk and gold-colored edges. And she was so cold—must have been blue-lipped by then— and why was she doing this anyway? What use would finding the General even be? He had wanted this to happen. He had promised something would, that if she stepped on that platform again she would never duel again. He’d gotten what he wanted. He’d not clear her name.

She ought to have just run, gotten out of the city, made herself a name in some other place with some other ring of fighters. She’d cut her hair short. Change her name. She just needed a drink first, something to cut down all this fucking noise, and she’d be able to get herself free.

But the crowd changed. Arrows zipped like bees overhead, screams rending the air from the direction Bashira had been heading in, the direction of the emperor and the general and all the nobles and officials who’d gathered close to hear the speech. A bolt skittered off her left pauldron and sunk deep into the meat of a young boy’s back, his yell choked off in an unceremonious gurgle. It bobbed, that bolt, a dancing, feathered end blooming red around the shaft in widening concentric circles. The woman next to him keened, low and horribly animal, and she scrambled at his shoulders, his arms, trying to hold him close but losing the battle against his rapidly sinking weight.

The crowd devolved into chaos, frightened spooked-horse-eyed people screaming names, running in different directions. They buffeted Bashira like debris in a riptide, and she stood in the center of it all, trying not to shake, trying not to let her teeth chatter. Was this real? Had the world sloughed off all its rules like dead skin, or would she wake again, reach for the bottle, shatter it into a gray-lit room?

There was a flash of weapons. A man rushed Bashira, and she moved off instinct, off the muscle memory of a decade of professional swordplay and the long years before that of agonizing practice. She unsheathed her sword. “I don’t want to kill anyone!”

The man smiled, mouth too wide beneath eyes of serpentine green. His voice came like a symphony of hisses, and he moved like the weighted end of a whip. “Then die!”

Bashira flipped her sword from its guard position and let him run himself into the point. His body made it heavy, blood slick. It was too loud to hear the dripping. She stumbled forward, and the crowd surged, and this time, Bashira was caught within it, borne along in this writhing wave.

More fighters came at her, people in peasant dress that hung ill-fitting from wiry frames. Bashira killed them, too, because she still didn’t want to die. She craved a less permanent annihilation—only half out of her body—and her city had lost so much definition to smoke and flame and darting blade that none of this felt quite real. These people—were they people?—weren’t trying to kill her, weren’t dying. Any moment she would wake, and it’d be exhibition day with its forms and procedures, comforting even in its decline.

The palace steps rose up before Bashira without her entirely knowing how she had reached them. She was shaking more now, less from cold and more from hypersensitive adrenaline that had never touched her fights before. She was bleeding—was she?—down her left thigh.

And where they came for her—did they?—they died.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Penny
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At first Zaya thought the turn in the crowds was simply part of the celebration. Among her people such a gathering would naturally have spawned a score of killings, drunken fights over women and horses, paying off old debts and new insults and the like. It wasn’t until Khiimori tensed that she realized there was trouble, the mare’s nostrils flaring and ears flattening at the familiar scent of spilled blood. Zaya stepped into an alley a few moments before the uneasy flow of the crowd turned into a stampede. Bowls of rice and noodles flew in all directions, scattering bowls of woven bamboo over the cobblestones. Men and women screamed and rushed for the end of the alley, eyes wide with panic. Zaya ducked under Khiimori, putting the warhorse’s bulk across the narrow mouth of the alley, sealing it as effectively as a barricade. The horse archer ducked beneath the steed and drew a long knife to discourage anyone from trying to force their way past the horse. Khiimori delivered a bone crushing kick to an old man who tried it, pitching him back into the surging crowd where the tide of people stamped the life from him in the space of a few brutal seconds. A blood curdling scream from down the avenue informed Zaya that some of the crowd had spilled into the food vendors booths and upended the pots of oil. A distinct smell like fried pork joined the melange. A whimper behind her whipped Zaya around and she came up brandishing the knife. A young girl, perhaps twelve summers, with wide terrified eyes stared at her. Zaya pulled a copper piece from her mouth and flicked it to the girl.

“Watch the horse,” she instructed. The girl’s mouth opened and closed like a fish and then a sly look came into her eye as she beheld the restive mare.

“Don’t even think about it,” Zaya advised. “The horse wont follow you.” She took a long step towards the girl and grabbed her by the tunic.

“But I will,” she promised. The girl nodded as tears flooded her eyes. Zaya made a disgusted sound and then jumped sideways, kicking off the stone walls in the same way she would run a canyon, finding enough purchase to drive herself upwards until she could haul herself onto the roof, her handhold betrayed her as she ripped free the smooth ceramic tiles, starting an avalanche of clinking stone shards that fell into the alley in a deluge. Whickers of irritation from Khiimori and the squawk of the girl informed her that this was unwelcome. Cursing all soft southerners and their stupid buildings, she finally got a hold of something and heaved herself up onto the now partially naked roof. A boot crashed down on her arm and she cried out in pain, grabbing the offending foot and yanking hard. A man screamed as his footing gave out, crashing to the roof and sliding as Zaya yanked on his rope belt and used the momentum to hurl herself up onto the roof and pitch her assailant down into the alley. She had a momentary glimpse of panicked eyes and long mustaches before he fell to the stones below, the crack of impact lost in the screaming bedlam of the crowd. Zaya pulled herself to her feet in time to see a second figure, a woman with a bow starting to turn towards her. Letting out an ear piercing war cry Zaya bounded across the rooftop as the woman spun to bring her bow to bear. Zaya slapped the point aside a heartbeat before the woman loosed it, the fletching cutting her hand as Zaya rammed her knife into the archers belly. The woman screamed as Zaya wrenched upwards, opening her from navel to tit in a single long stroke. Hot blood spattered the horse archer’s face as the woman coughed a great gout of it free and staggered back, clutching at the blood and loops of pinkish gray entrail spilling from her tunic. She managed one step, tripped and fell into the street, a loop of intestine catching on one of the ornamental dragons and uncoiling like a grotesque streamer. Grimacing at such an obvious clue to her location, Zaya slashed it free with the blood knife, dropping the whole mess into the street. The stink of blood and shit mingled with smoke, sweat, and fear.

The view out over the Imperial square was pure chaos. Bodies lay everywhere, trampled, put to the sword, or simply suffocated by the press. In places corpses were being carried along by the crush of people as they ran screaming for the exit. Kites and celebratory banners fluttered above the crowd, freed from the grips of their owners. Swords flashed and men died, though whether this was part of some attack or simply panicked people trying to cut their way free was unclear and probably unimportant. Zaya crouched on the roof and picked out several archers on other roof tops. There was so much going on she wasn’t sure where to look. Was this a riot? A coup? Might it be both? Was the Emperor she had come to make obeisance to about to fall from power. Was that a good thing? As the beating battle lust began to still into the colder mindset that came on her when considering the bigger picture she hunkered down, content to watch.

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by SouffleGirl123
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SouffleGirl123 Getting older is realising my blurbs were cringe

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Yazju Fleetscale


A collab with @POOHEAD189

Fujiko slowly trailed the crowds making their way toward the palace. It truly was a sight, particularly in comparison to the surrounding buildings which seemed rather plain compared to those in Karitu. She wolfed down her fried rice as she walked, her eyes scanning every direction for anything that may make her pay seem worth it to the empire, a job of little work is hardly worth the trouble. In her lookout for trouble she also kept an eye out for her Zauri friend. She knew he had a stall around here somewhere, selling his little trinkets he put so much effort in. He was actually a lot easier to find than trouble, surprising in a crowd at such an event but although there was the occasional Zauri amongst the crowd they were few and far. Between their towering height and bright scales they were easiest to spot and none other seemed to have cut off their horns- an action of Yazju’s Fujiko could not comprehend with the Honfokun belief that such an act is shameful. She attempted to catch his eye but was unsure if he’d spot her, a brown skinned Honfo was a fish in the sea unlike the Zauri at Wen Yue.

For Yazju’s part, he had just finished his lucrative dealings with some of the many delightful locals when something had happened. He didn’t know what. From where he had set his stall up, one could just see the central square where the Emperor made his debut and spoke to his citizenry in all of his splendor. Yazju was tall enough to be able to see better than most, and still he could only barely make out the pointy hat of what he assumed was the head honcho folk. It was all very exciting. Until things began to get chaotic, and he wasn’t sure if this was some strange ritual or not. He hastily packed his things, having finished for the night anyway. He had to find Fujiko! Luckily she seemed to be just around the corner…

It was only moments before the rocket was fired followed by a parade of arrows being pelted at the crowds. Fujiko cursed as a nearby guard was shot down. She wrenched his simple wooden shield out of his lifeless hands and held it above her head. Finally, something to do. She had a battle to run to, but first she needed to find Yazju and make sure he was okay. Luckily he seemed to have just spotted her.

”Yazju! Are you okay?” she asks hurriedly, giving him a once over for any obvious injury.

Yazju’s tail lashed, but more softly than any warning of agitation. He was excited to see his friend was safe and sound. Arrows bounced off the stones of the city grounds, and to his credit he lowered his stance to make himself a smaller target. Yazju had not been injured, but what was more important was that Fujiko had come out scott-free as well.
“I am good, Fujiko! Better than good! I sold some of my stock!” He declared, opening his mouth in what very few could consider a smile. “I will follow your lead here, friend.”

Fujiko gave a gentle smile at his chirpy response, she wasn't sure if 'better than good' was a fitting phrase when being pelted with arrows but Yazju had a way of focusing on positives like that. "Good on you, bud, but let's save the celebrating for when we're safe," she replies, tossing him the stolen shield as the rain of arrows ceased. Although she wasn't much more dexterous than her lizardkin friend his height alone made him a much easier target; besides, she was primarily a two-hand wielder. She once again pulls Otto Boyuja from its sheath, lowers her head slightly and mutters "May Kizunatsu protect us," under her breath before turning to Yazju and giving him a small nod. With that, she launches herself into battle against those that had pulled out their weapons against the guards and the innocents.

The Zauri charged forward, initially guarding Fujiko’s right flank as they both waded through the crowds of fleeing people and into the melee. Men and women, and even children were dead on the ground from stray arrows or sword cuts, but the majority of them were still escaping. The rain of arrows did not touch where the two companions entered, likely so the assassins did not hit their own troops. As Fujiko cleaved with Otto Boyuja, Yazju lead with the shield his friend had given him, using his great bulk and immense strength to flatten two men and send them to the ground. He stepped on one of their heads, though more by accident than design, and cut the other down as he attempted to rise. His tail lashing, he felt something bite it from behind, and the Zauri turned to see a swordsman trying to hack at him again. He whipped his bloodied tail and slapped the man hard across the face, before turning and burying his dao into his throat.

Just as Yazju protected Fujiko’s left, she protected his right. She dexterously stepped around the fallen bodies as she slashed and hacked at the assailants. As Yazju turned to deal with a guard from behind a swordsman came running at him, sword raised. Fujiko blocks his sword with her own and slips in the man’s path as their swords connect. The clanging of swords can be heard as the pair participate in swordplay. Eventually the attacker gets a good but light hit on Fujiko’s left arm. She grits her teeth and lunges at him, skewering him in his stomach causing him to fall. She continues in her position, taking down oncoming foes until Yazju turns back toward the palace where she returns to his side.

Yazju’s side was pierced by a spear, but it was a light wound that couldn’t completely bite through his armor. He cleaved the man’s head, unable to cut open the helm but making a terrible gash on his face that left him on the ground. Pulling the spear out, he broke it and tossed it to the ground and hisses in pain. Zauri healed easily, and the wound was shallow, and so he went right back to the fight, pushing forward like a stone rolling down hill, making way for Fujiko as he hacked and bashed with dao and shield. He had the distinct impression they needed to make it to the emperor’s men, and so that’s where he was going to go.

Fujiko glanced back at her friend for only a moment but where his gaze was fixed had already told her where he was wanting to go. After 3 years of battling together and 2 of those spending most of their day together in travel she’d picked up a lot of his nonverbal subtle cues in battle- as he had hers, it was almost like a secret language only the pair of them were tapped into. She gave him a nod before working back on cleaving the men in their path. She looked up at the palace ahead, wondering if they’d get there in time for their help to be needed.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Shift
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Cai held two full bottles of sweet plum wine, their soft amber color covered by the dark bag they were kept in. The vendor had been pleasant enough to deal with, the man had barked his query as to what Cai had wanted and then filled his request with no further small talk, accepting the amount for the alcohol with a tight-lipped, curt nod. An unmemorable transaction was always better than the alternative.

As he worked his way through the wider streets, there were some merrymakers still trying to make their way to the royal palace to listen to the Emperor, while others realized the futility of approach and merely hung back, waiting for the address to finish. Those intent on their approach scrambled at the edges of the crowds that filled smaller alleyways leading towards the Ruby Palace to the brim. The appeal was lost on Cai. There was never anything new pronounced, merely the same address every year, the man made his platitudes to the larger community and expressed the same well wishes.

In his opinion, it wasn’t worth being cramped together in the crowd of Folk like sardines, even if his presence would have been tolerated within their numbers. Hm, now there was a thought – would Zhao-Fu have had enough strength to prepare dinner this evening? Cai considered stopping at one of the food stalls before going home. Fish perhaps? But as he turned to consider his options, the sounds from the crowd nearby turned from merriment to confusion to outright panic.

He heard the screams first, alarmed and hysterical, before the first waves of Folk and Hofokun alike scrambled away from the palace square in a stampede. The cacophonous sounds kept him from hearing the whistling of arrows that rained down from above, but he quickly became aware of their effect as bodies began dropping around him.

In his shock, Cai stood very still. A tree that the current of people surged around in their attempt to flee. The sounds of battle and moans of pain from those that had fallen, or the screams of anguish from their loved ones suddenly transported him back to the Jade Plains Tribe five years earlier.

He would have stayed like that, or worse, if a slice on his shoulder from an incoming arrow hadn’t shaken him awake from his stupor. Grimacing, he looked around and noticed things had escalated. Arrows were now trailing fire and targeting buildings which burned and smoked, as well as citizens, who had begun to battle each other as well as guards who had already made it this far out.

Shouldn’t they be focusing on the Emperor?

Momentarily overwhelmed by his senses, Cai forced himself to breathe deeply, only to choke on the black smoke that had begun to accumulate. This wasn’t Banhet.

This wasn’t the Jade Plains.

He was in Bianwei.

Would he sit by and watch as another massacre happened before his eyes?

The decision was made for him when a small body plummeted into his side. A young Folk held tightly to his arm which bled profusely, tears streaming down his face as another Folk of a similar age approached with a sword that dripped crimson.

“Come now, Lee, you’ve suspected me of something nefarious for weeks. Aren’t you oh so pleased to have been right?” A sinister, lopsided smirk was visible beneath a dark mask.

The younger Folk looked up at Cai with a pitiful expression and the Mokeu sighed, wishing he had his staff. As it were, all he had on him was the two bottles of sweet plum wine. Regretting the decision as soon as the idea occurred to him, Cai took action before changing his mind.

The attacker was so focused on his target that he didn’t register the quick movement as Cai pulled out one of the bottles and threw it with devastating accuracy onto his head where it splintered and washed him in wine. A surprised scream was heard as the older Folk ripped the mask off and rubbed at his eyes.

“Run,” Cai urged, as he too turned to flee. Without a weapon, he was a sitting target ready to be picked. Thank the ancestors he hadn’t been killed off already in his earlier daze. He lost sight of the small Folk who ran quickly despite the wound to his arm. He found himself hoping the boy would make it.

Now wasn’t the time to be focused on others, though. The attacking Folk would be recovering momentarily, and Cai needed to find cover. The streets were too risky with raining arrows, so he ducked into a nearby boarding house that hadn’t yet gone up in flames.

Inside the boarding house was nearly as hectic as outside. Furniture was scattered across the sitting room as people madly made for the upstairs area or cellar, pushing and shoving over one another. With a hiss a flaming arrow streaked through a nearby window and stuck into the floor setting a place rug aflame almost instantly as the silk curtains of the window curled and blackened from the lick of fire.

Several people screamed and began to rush for the front door shoving fiercely by Cai only to be met with a volley from across a nearby rooftop - three Folk and a Honfokun woman falling back across the doorway filled with arrows. Outside more flaming arrows were then released and pelted across the front of the boarding house and the roof.

As people continued to madly push for upstairs and downstairs alike another arrow darted through an open window striking someone in the upper leg and sending him reeling across the floor. He was an older man, adorned in fine garments with a golden medallion dangling from his neck, he cried loudly in pain as people hopped over his fallen form and made for the stairwell in the back of the boarding house. The flames were spreading fast, the burning rug had been the catalyst that spread the fire within as it rained down from the outside.

Seeing the towering Mokeu the elderly man extended one hand outward as he futilely rugged at the arrow in his leg. He made no sound other than pained gasps but his lips formed the word “Please” as he fearfully glanced around at the orange and yellow blazes spreading across the sitting room.

A. reaches to lift up and carry the wounded man downstairs.
B. reaches to lift up and carry the wounded man upstairs.
C. reaches to lift up and carry the wounded man out the back door.
D. pulls the golden medallion from the mans’ neck and then escape.
E. ignores the wounded man and heads downstairs.
F. ignores the wounded man and heads upstairs.

I chose…
C. reaches to lift up and carry the wounded man out the back door.

The elderly man looked nothing like Zhao-Fu of course, he was a Folk and Cai’s mentor a Mokeu. Even so, the similarity in age and feebleness was uncanny and as Cai watched the man pleading for help he saw his mentor in his mind’s eye. So much so that a lump caught in his throat as a wave of guilt washed over him at not having thought of Zhao-Fu’s well being immediately.

I need to get to him.

Fear made his knees wobble at the thought of returning to their shared home and finding nothing but rubble. He needed to move quickly.

In one sweeping motion, he bent down and wrapped the older man’s arm around his shoulders, easily lifting him up like a babe in his arms. Folk were so light.

Smoke stung his eyes as the fire raged inside the room, spreading fast. He swung his head to the stairs but decided against that route, the fire meant they would just get stuck regardless of which direction he went. Cai coughed and his lungs burned. The four bodies lying at the entrance, blood pooling around them, was enough warning against that exit. Time was running out, the fire was approaching, angry and hot.

There was only one viable option.

Cai secured his hold on the man and made a dash for the back door, hoping no one would be waiting to ambush them there.

As the flames spread so did the smoke making a choking black cloud that hung in the air. The fires raced about the room undeterred, the walls turning an angry red - pillows, rugs, rags, and the strewn furniture acting as kindling for the flame. When Cai reached the back door he would discover it to be blocked from the outside, not budging in the slightest. The smoke was thick now to the point of blinding and it poured into the Mokeu’s lungs. The smell of cinders and all manner of burnt objects was strong enough to make ones’ mind spin and stomach churn. The old man Cai carried coughed and gagged between gasps of pain, futilely pressing both hands against his face to try and block the smoke.

Cai could try and burst through the back door, he had the strength after all, of course there was no telling what was blocking the door or who was waiting on the other side. He could try and circle back but that seemed an even more risky choice as the smoke now veiled the entire ground floor.

A. attempts to break through the back door. (Might)
B. makes a run back in the direction of the front door, avoiding small fires and scattered debris. (Perception)
C. looks for a window along the nearby walls. (Perception)

I chose…
C. looks for a window along the nearby walls. (Perception)
Check Failed. [My roll: 14 DM roll: 18]

As he coughed and blinked against the tears welling in his eyes, he regretted the option to attempt an escape through the back. Of course whoever was attacking the city would have made sure the exits were blocked. Based on what he’d seen outside, their goal was to kill as many citizens as possible.

The old man in his arms shook with bouts of coughing which were only interspersed by groans of pain from the arrow still protruding from his thigh. Cai cursed and realized he would have had a better chance at survival if he’d gone up the landing and jumped out of a window.

An idea struck him suddenly. The small corridor at the back of the house might have a window they could jump out of. It would be much safer to do so than from the second floor, after all.

The thick haze of smoke made seeing close to impossible. It hung like a dark rain cloud over Cai’s head and he found himself crouching to avoid the worst of it. The stinging in his eyes he could have lived with and the toxic burning scent of the room’s adornments would have been more tolerable if it wasn’t also mingled with the horribly sickening smell of burning flesh that wafted throughout the room from the four bodies at the entrance. The fire ate at them like a hungry predator and Cai couldn’t stop picturing the image of skin melting off of bone as he tried to think.

He couldn’t put the man down. The fire was rapidly spreading across the wooden floors and the soles of his bare feet were scalded by their heat.

Keeping the elder Folk’s body awkwardly balanced on one arm, Cai reached out with the other and blindly felt along the wall for a window. His eyes remained closed. He couldn’t see anything past the smoke anyway and like this, the stinging was only significantly painful instead of intolerable.

All his fingers found was black soot that he was certain similarly covered his entire body.

He attempted the other wall to no avail. Ancestors curse it! Time was running out. The man had stopped coughing and Cai knew that wasn’t a good sign.

I chose…
A. attempts to break through the back door. (Might)
Check Passed. [My roll: 17 DM roll: 16]

With no other options, his last recourse was to attempt to break through the barred door into whatever was awaiting them on the other side.

Cai coughed, his throat and lungs burning, breath heaving as the oxygen quickly diminished in the room. He needed to get out now.

Wrapping his arms securely around the man once more, he leaned forward, jutting his shoulder out before him, and moved forward until he felt the wooden door before him. He took two steps back and then used all his force to shove his shoulder into the door.

He had never been so grateful to hear the splintering of wood.

Why hadn’t he just tried this from the beginning?

A few more slams into the door and it gave way.

Cai stumbled over what seemed to be a small cart that had been placed against the door as a makeshift blockade. He blinked through the tears in his eyes as he steadied himself, grateful not to have dropped the man in the process, who hung limply in his arms like one of the many sacks he’d spent all day hauling.

No one was waiting for them in the alley behind the boarding house. Cai supposed the masked attackers hadn’t expected someone of his stature or strength to break through their trap, and wished he had the strength or time to tell the others he’d seen in the building that there was a way out.

As it was, he needed to get home and check on Zhao-Fu.

A quick glance to the man in his arms was enough for him to notice shallow breaths, and Cai breathed a sigh of relief. He was still alive.

He considered briefly where he might leave the man, but realized no safe place remained in the city. This stranger was safer in his arms than anywhere else, and Zhao-Fu would be able to offer assistance with the smoke inhalation and arrow wound.

Cai’s shoulder throbbed painfully, the other stung and bled slightly though he didn’t know from what, and his feet blistered painfully from the burning floors inside the building but this didn’t stop him from taking up a steady trot in the direction of his shared home in the outskirts of the city. His lungs burned and felt as though they couldn’t hold nearly as much oxygen as he’d been used to, which slowed his pace, but at least he was moving. At least he was still alive.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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The first rocket did not much in terms of attracting Bó's attention. Mistakes and accidents could happen even with the most disciplined and best trained crew on the ultimate occasion, so why bother about it ? The first bunch of arrows did go rather unnoticed as well as it was headed for a target far away from the Mokeu and the crowd was cheering way too loudly to hear the projectiles' hissing noises. Only when even in Bó's immediate surroundings started to panick and more screams could be heard from different places did he recognize something was really off here.

And suddenly the place just felt so much more like home! Even though... this was a particularly sneaky bunch of contesters for the lead, weren't they ? And their general modus operandi quickly appeared to be illogical and counterproductive to say the least as well, for the competitors in the succession wars Bó was used to normally tried to kill each other primarily and not so much anybody else. What was the point of leading a tribe if there were no tribe members left alive to be lead ?

Bó felt little interest trying to find out today so he was quick to get moving the best he could in order to get off the plaza. Being heads taller than those around him and looking so much differently overall, he realized just how much of a tempting target he probably was for those who had the high ground at the moment. Down here he could do nothing but wait for the next arrow!

The Mokeu did not follow the general rush for the gates though. These could wait -- greater safety was to be gained within a bunch of solid walls right now instead of maintaining public exposure. Such a bunch really wasn't hard to find if one wasn't picky here and the door did only pose more of a temporary obstacle as he started kicking and ramming against it. Yes... Technically speaking this was an unwanted intrusion, but Bó had already won the battle of arguments against himself on that: exceptional situations required exceptional measures!

He did hold his staff at the ready though as he dashed through the building's interior. The latter's layout was completely unknown to him, but anything that looked even remotely like a staircase leading upwards had to be the right direction and people tended to place those centrally, didn't they ? He wanted to get upwards until right under the roof, or preferably even find a hatch to get on top of it. Seeing the attackers face to face could never hurt!

A sudden deafening explosion shook the entire building followed by the unmistakable crackling of black powder. In the panic outside a cart of fireworks had been left behind and tipped over just beyond the building, an ideal target for one of the archers on the roofs nearby. A single flaming arrow had been fired into the overturned heap the black powder igniting and going up in a sparkling fireball. The explosion itself made the entire building rock, sending furniture tipping over and glassware and ornaments shatter against the wood floor. Sparklers whistled about and skirted over the thatch roof outside as the walls splintered. The hard blast of the explosion had been enough to send Bó down hard on the floor as flames began lapping across the outside of the building.

A sharp snapping of wood could be heard as cracks began to run across the ceiling. No sooner had Bó oriented himself than with a loud crunch an entire section of the ceiling came down and smashed against the door leading back outside. The door was blocked now forcing Bó to either try and force his way back through the rubble or head on up the roof and look for an escape. The pressing heat overhead was indication enough of the fires spreading up top, even so the room was now unstable as more shards came breaking loose from the ceiling and the walls began to groan and creak. A sharp scream could be heard from above though feint amid all the surrounding madness and destruction.

A. tries to wrestle free some of the rubble blocking the door and make his way back outside. (Might)
B. decides to make his way up to the roof and the scream, dodging the spreading fires around and overhead.(Dexterity)
C. smashes through the cracking walls out into the nearby alleyway. (Chance)

Chosen option: B. Passed!

It was one of those moments when one could possibly wonder about the ingenuity -- or rather the lack thereof -- of using fireworks on a large scale in a city that was largely built using highly combustible wood. Luckily though for festival's organisers, Bó did not have the time to be bothered with that kind of questions. The much more important thing for him was: How much of his precious fur would he lose to the fire before he'd manage to escape ?

For a brief moment, Bó's legs wanted to go the route downstairs to tempting safety again while his head and upper body twisted very much towards the upwards direction where the scream had come from.

No retreat! Retreating was for cowards! That fire would hurt maybe, but one's bad conscience could so, too! And... and... and if the building would collapse beneath his feet upstairs rather than above his head downstairs as he'd try to work his way out there, he'd also have to deal with far less burning rubble trying to smash, incinerate or suffocate him! Up was bound to be a good choice in every aspect!

A large patch of cloth drenched in water would have been nice, though. As Bó ascended through the rapidly deteriorating structure, he did not even want to know what kind of things happened behind his back. The Mokeu felt satisfied by the thought alone that the roof would offer an alternative escape route towards one of the adjacent buildings or just a daring jump back down if he really had to. Also the barrage of evasive maneuvers he had to perform in order not to be scorched seriously did not leave much time to think about anything else in the first place.

The screams he followed guided him into a room that just amazed him with the number of expensive looking things it was decorated with. Even more outstanding however was the woman that now looked at him, her clothes revealing a bit more of her skin that their maker had originally meant for -- as exquisite as they looked, they simply weren't fireproof either.

A sudden loud snapping could be heard from below as the floor began to buckle and quiver. The explosions and ensuing fire had weakened the supports for the second floor, the boards beneath Bó began to crackle as they threatened to crumble inward. The rumbling overhead also suggested that the ceiling was giving way as well and threatened to collapse at any moment. The Folk woman sensing what was happening threw her hands to her mouth, halfway suppressing a cry of fear. Smoke filled the air causing Bó and the womans’ noses to burn and their eyes to water as the acrid smell of burnt wood and fabric stifled their lungs. The floor continued to buckle, a noticeably louder crunching could be heard and suddenly the boards between Bó and the woman split apart as splinters shot upward - the entire section of the building was about to come crashing down and bury them both in the rubble.

A. leaps over the crack in the floor and grabs the woman over his shoulder - then leaping through the far window down below. (Dexterity)
B. leaps over the crack in the floor, past the woman, and out the window down below. (Dexterity)
C. leaps over the crack in the floor and grabs the woman over his shoulder, then makes a mad dash back down the stairs and out the front door. (Chance)

Chosen option: A. Passed!

If the unburdened floor between them was already giving way, then the floor beneath Bó's not exactly lithe feet would certainly be next. A fall through burning building floors was not an option, but he also didn't feel like challenging the downwards staircase again with a woman on his shoulders. The window it certainly was, and there was no reason not to try and rescue her if she happened to stand in his way out anyway.

The amber orbs that were his eyes were only able to produce blurry hints about his environment by the time the window's frame whizzed past them, barely not colliding with either of their heads. He had honestly not checked whether there was anybody standing on the ground below before jumping out. Even during the fall, Bó could feel the heated air blasting out the building's lower levels and rising upwards around them. Good thing that there was only solid ground to be felt and not something much softer at the end!

Maybe searching for a building had not been such a good idea ? On the other hand now he felt the need for some sort of shelter even more. If not, then he might only have traded a woman's death by fire for a woman's death by arrow. And... who was she in the first place ? The oddity of holding a seemingly noble woman in his arms and on his shoulder in the middle of chaos struck Bó quite a bit now that the most immediate danger was over.
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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Shu
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Shu ☕️

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Sword Master Keola wrenched his spear free from the now crumbled Folk before him. As he raised his red painted weapon up the massive Zauri took a moment to look over the scene around him. The Imperial Square was littered with the corpses of both the Imperial Guard and the attackers, blood pooled the ancient stones as entrails and cuts of flesh bridged the spaces between fallen bodies. Amid the gruesome scene the fighting continued, swords clanging together as spears and axes crashed against armor and round shields. The Imperial Guard held their ground even as exhaustion was surely setting in, the armed attackers likewise unrelenting and pouring all their grit into their assault. Keola knew not who these hundreds were who had so suddenly attacked from the midst of the festival, just that they were well-armed and sufficiently trained to have fell so many of Bianwei’s guard. This is no commoner uprising or marauder raid, this is something more. Keola thought.

Arrows flitted about overhead, some coming down into the square aimed at stray guards while others whistled towards the awnings and walkways of the Ruby Palace where Imperial archers kept low and shot back at the enemy archers atop the nearby buildings.

Keola turned his slitted eyes towards the great stairs that ascended up towards the palace. As the last of the reinforcing guards came scurrying down into the square Keola could just catch a look of the wounded Emperor nearing the great doors, with him was Jia Chong and the straggling members of the Imperial Council. Keola had ordered them to take shelter within the palace and sent the best of his men with them for protection. The Sword Master imagined it best that he joined them as soon as possible, but first he felt the need to kill a few more of the armed rogues before him to give the guard some reprieve. With a tight chest and a determined spirit the Zauri general sent one last silent prayer to his god Runiq and then rushed forth into the continuing fighting.

A Honfokun, bare-chested and wielding a sleek long sword, rushed at Keola undeterred by the difference in their size. As the smaller Honfo swung his blade the Zauri took a wide step to the side at the last moment and with a short thrust stabbed his great spear into the exposed side of the swordsman, pulling it free just as swiftly and moving to his neck mark. With a hard stride forward Keola then plunged his spear into the midsection of a Folk in his path with such force it lifted the man up off his feet and slammed him down onto the stone ground. Keola again pulled his spear free and waded into the sea of blood and bodies, striking down yet another Folk foolish enough to rush at him. The Imperial Guard, emboldened by the presence of the great Sword Master, began to fight harder overcoming their exhaustion - striking furiously with their swords while others battered down their foes with their shields.

As Keola killed another attacker he took a quick look up to the palace once more. The great doors were closing, ensuring that His Majesty and the Imperial Council were now inside and safe. Confident that the palace was defensible enough Keola wiped a streak of blood from his face before turning his spear on the enemy once more. While part of him still felt he should be by the Emperor’s side now another part loathed to abandon his men in the heat of battle, and his help was proving a great boon for the guard. Once the enemy were weakened or better yet scattered Keola would return to the palace himself.

- -

Ubagai Wakuno looked down at the fighting in the Imperial Square, things were not going well. Despite the initial element of surprise and the Imperial Guard losses the tide was beginning to turn. The guard had on the whole maintained their footing and the addition of the Emperor's’ accursed Zauri protector was spelling the death of many of Wakuno’s brothers, worse yet the coward of an emperor had fled into the palace having survived the pierce of the arrow.

Wakuno cast his gaze about the city. Fires were consuming any buildings they could reach and explosions could still be heard throughout the streets, accidental and deliberate alike. The last of Wakuno’s brothers were rushing forth into the square, leaping down from rooftops - save for the archers - and bursting forth from alleyways. Only a handful of their number remained on the outskirts battling for control of the walls. Most of the people of Bianwei who were not dead had either retreated into their homes or were madly making for the city gate to try and escape into the countryside, like rats and mice scampering from a smoldering house. A great ring of orange and yellow fire had encircled the square, it’s blinding light casting an ominous glow on the fighting and the towering palace.

There is little time to spare, the Emperor must die - I must reach him now.

Wakuno looked to the front of the Ruby Palace, there were no guards out front but the doors were without doubt barred shut and the archers above made any ascent up the palace stairs a promise of death. There was no time to try and find a way to sneak inside, there was only a direct attack. As a scowl peeled at his masked face Wakuno noticed an overturned cart of fireworks nearby, rockets meant to soar high above and explode across the sky. A thin trace of a smile pulled at the corner of the masked man’s mouth as he waved to a pair of his brothers on a nearby rooftop, pointing for them to join him below. This would take care of both the doors and the archers at the same time leaving the front of the palace open and the Emperor at the mercy of Wakuno and those who would join him in charging into the palace.

- -

With a sharp swing Tsio Bu sliced the head from the kneeling guardsman before him, then kicking away the body. With a twirl of his sword the raven-haired man looked around for his next opponent. His simple robe and pale skin were spattered with blood and his straw hat from before was long abandoned to the entropy of the fighting. Tsio Bu clenched his teeth as he noted the dwindling numbers of his brothers. While the Imperial Guard had suffered many losses themselves they still had the advantage, not to mention the number of commoners of Bianwei who seemed to have taken to the fight themselves in an attempt to aid the guard in their defense. And then there was Keola, legendary Sword Master of Yongcun, cutting a bloody swathe in the night. Tsio Bu had yet to encounter the towering Zauri face to face but he had seen him nonetheless and looked forward to crossing blades with him.

As he hunted for his next foe a sudden sharp whistling caught Tsio Bu’s attention - as well as many others’. From across the square four rockets came shrieking overhead, many Folk and Honfokun leaping to the ground amid the blood and bodies for cover. Tsio Bu watched frozen as the rockets roared over the top of the palace stairs and hit the great doors with a single bright, deafening explosion that rattled his eyes in his skull. Tsio Bu gritted his teeth and clapped his free hand against one ringing ear as he pressed his shoulder against the other. Pops and cracks of black powder filled the air as did the smell of it as the ebony smoke began to slowly dissipate.

For a moment as he looked up Tsio Bu was stunned as he and many others watched the great doors snap loose from their hinges and come crashing forward at the entrance to the palace. Splinters leaped upward as the wood pounded against the stone and the hinges now hung limply against the frame of the palace entrance. The archers on the balconies and awnings above had all scrambled to get away from the incoming rockets, some having slipped and fallen to their deaths below. The front of the palace was now open and undefended.

A single shout of triumph rang out nearby which quickly turned to a roar. Many of Wakuno’s brothers immediately began rushing towards the stairs, Imperial Guards on their heels, while others lashed out at the nearest guardsmen thus reigniting the fight anew. With a single blink and a shake of his head Tsio Bu shook off the mixed feeling of numbness and disbelief, getting a firm grip on his sword and moving forward. This was it, thre time was now - Emperor Xiao Shang would die.
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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Atalanta
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|D U E L I N G T S I O B U|

with @Shu

Tsio Bu moved in the direction of the great stairs, steering away from the scattered fighting and dodging those who ran past him. As he neared the first stone step he looked to his right and found himself facing an armored woman bearing a great sword and wearing the frightful visage of an Oni - a half-mask. At her feet lay three dead Folk, all brethren of Tsio Bu. The long-haired swordsman grimaced and took a firm hold of his blade with both hands. The woman’s sword was easily twice the size of his own but Tsio Bu had fought larger still. The red armor she wore was resemblant to that of the Imperial Guard, but this woman was no guardswoman. A blade for hire? A brigand? Or just someone with a weapon that decided to interfere?

Regardless of her motives, the dead brothers at her feet made it clear enough that this woman was the enemy, and like all his other enemies this night, Tsio Bu would kill this one all the same.

The mask hid her expression, but Tsio Bu cared not for that. He merely took a fighting stance and waited for the woman to attack or address him either. His blade glimmered in the light of the surrounding inferno, and his empty, solemn face and posture were that of a calm and ready fighter.

Up close, he could see that she looked unwell. Sweat beaded at her temples, a tiny rivulet of it running down to pool, briefly, on the lip of her mask. Her red-brown eyes were wild, and her chest heaved. “Why have you come?” she asked, and she did not move to attack.

“To free the world.”

Tsio Bu said nothing more, for he did not need to. In a few moments, this woman would be dead, and her soul returned to the heavens as all the others fell this night would be. They would all understand soon enough as they stood before Qunyi and the rest of the gods to be judged. Tsio Bu eyed the woman up and down, wiggling his toes against the bottom of his shoes with anticipation. The metallic smell of blood made his own heart beat faster, and his hair stand on end. He ignored the darting shadows and shapes around him and drowned the clang of metal and cries of agony from his mind.


With a sharp snort Tsio Bu lunged forward, blade raised. With any luck, he could land a quick fatal blow or at least knock the woman off balance for a quick end to this bout. It took five long strides for Tsio Bu to close the gap between he and the armored woman, and with a sharp thrust, he aimed his blade tip right for her lower stomach just above the groin.

The woman attempted to dodge, but Tsio Bu managed to land a mark - albeit barely. The tip of his Honfo blade cut into her thigh enough to draw blood that began to stream down. This did little and, if anything, would only spur his opponent to a vengeful counter. Tsio Bu recoiled and took up a defensive position, preparing to block the incoming counter in response to his first strike.

Instead, she laughed, a bewildering, head-thrown-back cry like the short, sharp crack of a mag dog. And then her sword did move, faster than he could fix his stance or change his block, and the sharp tip slid into his skin.

Tsio Bu could not suppress the outcry that burst from between his teeth and thin lips. A red-hot flash erupted through his core as searing pain raced down the bloody wound that now reached down his left arm. The woman’s massive sword had cut his entire sleeve off at the shoulder, and a deep red slash reached from the side of his upper left arm down to his elbow. Blood poured down his corded forearm and dribbled from his fingertips. It took all of Tsio Bu’s will not to drop his blade from the pounding pain, and he was forced to grip his weapon in one hand.

His opponent lunged forth, hoping to press her advantage against her staggered foe. Reminding himself he had been wounded worse and shaking off the pain, Tsio Bu quickly deflected a thrust aimed at his core then made a sharp inward cut at her neck. The masked woman ducked quickly and scurried back - Tsio Bu acting on the drive of instinct as he took a sharp inward step and swung again, this time down at her pricked thigh in hopes of bringing her to her knees this time.

Tsio Bu hissed in anger as his strike was ricocheted aside, just barely at that - the tip of his foe’s blade striking against the side of his own and sending it away. His foe immediately tried her advantage, making a hard two-handed arcing cut towards his midsection, Tsio Bu twisting around, narrowly avoiding the blade’s edge. He retaliated with his own strike immediately, not surprised as it was like the first block. The swordsman took a deep breath and a step back, steadying himself as he readied himself for an attack, planning for a quick dodge or parry and then an easy counter hit. This time. he thought to himself.

Her sword came, and Tsio Bu leaped past the arc of the blade, a glint in his eye as he saw his opening.

But no, not this time either.

The woman in the demon mask blocked Tsio Bu's blow with the easy counter of someone who had done little but wield their weapon for years and years. It was like an extra limb, and she seemed to move it without conscious thought. All reaction and flashing red-brown eyes, her dark hair loose and wild around her shoulders. She didn't look quite human in the light of fireworks exploding against the roofs above their heads, the palace steps lined with the bodies of the fallen.

Their sword blades met again in a series of sharp, short metallic clangs. He attacked. She blocked. She swung. He dodged. It was a mad dance of flashing steel that she seemed to be reveling in. Sweat beaded at his temples, and she darted forward again, his sidestep a little too late, his sword arm slow to block. The cutting edge of her two-handed sword nicked his uninjured arm, and then he shoved it away, darting in to lay another cut on her thigh, a vibrant, bleeding X against milk-pale skin.

The demon woman grinned as he dodged her counter. "That'll be fun to show off. Why don't you leave behind attacking innocents and take up dueling? I could get you in with a decent sponsor."

Tsio Bu did not try to explain his calling to this cackling mad woman but dashed in to land a blow that fell only on empty, ash-ridden air. Before he could turn, find her, attack, anything, she was there again, one pale, blood-spattered hand closing around his injured forearm, the pain a short, bright fire-burst shock. She yanked him forward, stumbling and lightheaded, and then pain lanced his back, blood splattering against the stones below him.

"Nevermind... you spend too much time standing still."

The world was awash with inarticulate sound, a vicious wave roar that blocked out anything but the disparate drops of crimson on stone. Tsio Bu was panting now, his teeth gritted against the pain. What was pain, really? Nothing but a byproduct of his mortal form. He was greater than it, stronger-willed. Tsio Bu launched himself forward again, forcing his arms to follow the forms he had studied so carefully.

The woman slipped easily aside, laughing, her form swimming before him. She attacked in a blur. He couldn't track her. And then her great, two-handed Miao Dau was slicing through his guard, and viscous red spurted from a crimson slash across his chest.

Tsio Bu fell backward - arms up, sword hold slipping through his fingers. His body came down hard on the bloody stones of the ancient square. The blow against his back caused pain to ring through his entire form, and yet another scream tore through his lips. The black and orange sky above was hazy, and Tsio Bu’s vision was blurred. Just before him, he could see the towering shape of the masked woman who had so easily reduced him to the fallen blood-soaked wretch he now was. His shirt was shredded, his hair matted and haggard, and his arms, chest, and back stained crimson. His head pounded and grew light at the same time, the loss of so much blood threatening him with unconsciousness. If this warrioress bled him anymore it could mean death.

No - it would mean death. He would lay here amid the corpses around him for the rest of the night, no doubt. His heart would give out and his soul would peel itself from his body as it was thrown into some waste pit or a pyre. And then he would stand to be judged in Aniyat, the world beyond - reward or punishment awaiting him when next he came to this world. This troubled, forsaken, empty world of mortals.

If I am to die I will do it on my feet, not wallowing like a beaten child.

Tsio Bu strained to rise up, his savaged body protesting, his head beating like a drum. He found himself gasping through the pain, knees shaking as his arms and shoulders trembled. His only driving force his labored resolve and the last strength he had to give. He unsteadily reached for his sword and took it within his right hand, the woman before him making no move to stop him. She did not need to, after all, Tsio Bu was all but beaten, and one final strike across his frail form would surely finish him. It will be an honor to die standing fighting for my god than let myself be sapped away lying on the ground.

Tsio Bu raised his blade up and took one forward stride through the pain and blurriness as he swung at his opponent. She blocked it easily, slashed toward him again, and Tsio Bu only barely got his sword up to stop the sweep that ought to have decapitated him. He was panting, his limbs growing cold in the awful, seeping heat of blood against his torso. He lashed out with desperate, stumbling force that she turned away, but the woman wasn’t smiling anymore. If anything, she looked tired and sick.

“Remember that you chose this,” she said and slid her blade through his heart.

Bashira let the man slide off her blade and wiped it clean on what little unblooded fabric there was left on him. Around her, the square was still in chaos, fireworks bursting against the roofs of the palace and surrounding buildings, people dying on the streets. Bashira sheathed Bad Luck and turned her back on all of it to climb the palace stairs.

The doors were blown open, the palace open and vulnerable before the onslaught. A few knots of desperate guards fought savage attackers, and somewhere, the great edifice was burning. Bashira took a deep breath and crossed her arms to hide her tremors before shouldering her way inside.
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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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"Thank you." The woman in her noble dress appeared shocked, but not extremely frightened. Her house was burning, but a building was replaceable -- especially if one had a lot of coin at one's disposal. What would not be easily replaceable was the emperor or her own family, but the former was too far away and too high up even for her to be more than a rather abstract concern at this point. The latter was an issue though...

"Akira." she said, offering the towering Mokeu her hand. "Whom am I to thank for my rescue ?" Her voice was friendly, but by no means soft and rather determined. Bó suspected her to be indeed of noble origin, even though 'nobility' was something his own background had not exactly told him much about.

"The-one-who's-been-buried-under-burning-rubble if we don't get away from here!" Bó replied, only offering her his true name after having declined shaking hands without a word and giving her a gentle, but no less determined push down the narrow street. Both craned their heads on the lookout for any archers looming above them, but as long as they'd stick to the narrowest of passages they felt comparatively safe from those still.

"Bó... so simple!" Akira sighed. "Finding my father won't be however. He lives in a different quarter." She turned, looking up to Bó in a sincere, but still somewhat charming manner. "Can you help me ?"

Bó weighed his options, but only briefly. He needed to get out of his hellhole anyway, right ? So... And if she was noble, than maybe there'd be even more of a favor to be returned than he already expected! Soon later, they were indeed on their way towards Akira's father's last known location. They only did so on a very complicated, overly long route that nobody with any degree of sanity left would have considered under normal circumstances. Avoid the plaza, at all costs!

Bó even considered using the next access point they could find to descend into the sewer system below where hopefully no attackers would be, but only for a not so long moment. After some serious exchange of views with one another, Akira convinced him that the risk of an arrow to the knee was still preferable to wading through everybody's poo. At least he could argue very much to his own defense that, if one's own society was not advanced enough to have sewers in the first place, any of its members could also hardly know just how much of a mess those really were.
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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Shift
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Cai was forced to take a circuitous route to his building, avoiding fires and groups of fighting Folk. He wasn’t sure what was going on, who was attacking, or why, but he knew he didn’t want to get involved any further. It would only prevent him from reaching Zhao-Fu.

He glanced down at the man in his arms and coughed, his lungs still sore from all the smoke inhalation. Had he been right to take this man with him? He could suddenly hear Zhao-Fu’s voice loud and clear in his mind, reprimanding him for such a thought.

“Life is precious, Cai-Su, you know this. Had you not saved this man, he would have surely died from exposure, trampling, blood loss, or any number of other terrible fates.”

Sighing, Cai hoped his mentor would have enough energy to tend to the old man’s arrow wound when they arrived to the apartment. He wasn’t sure how much of the chaos had reached their door, and was still optimistic as he approached the last corner before his street.

His breath caught as he noticed the plumes of dark black smoke wafting high into the sky ahead. Please, let it not be my building, he prayed silently as he rounded the corner.

The sight he beheld dropped him to his knees.

The entire street was ablaze in embers and thick black smoke. What was once a crowded mess of apartment buildings, a street full of people going to and fro, awash with chatter and laughter from residents was now reduced to rubble, ash, dying embers, and smoke. Bodies were strewn about where they had been slain or where they had fallen from burn wounds or other maladies. It was a horrifying sight to behold.

The fact their enemy had reached this far outside the city center in the short time span indicated they were not only ruthless, but well organized and large in number. It wasn’t safe to remain in one place for long while they were about. But Cai’s mind was far too preoccupied to bother with such information, he was frozen in place, kneeling at crossing, facing the remains of what had been the building where he’d resided with Zhao-Fu for the last three years. His eyes saw scenes that had nothing to do with what was before him.

The old man in his arms stirred, coughed, and groaned in pain. His arm reached out and a shaky hand touched Cai’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he rasped, before overtaken by another fit of coughing.

The action was enough to shake Cai from his stupor.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said gravely after collecting himself. They should have been safe here, but it seemed nowhere had been spared the enemy’s ferocious attack. Survival instincts demanded Cai run, get as far from the city as he could, but he wouldn’t give up hope that his mentor had somehow survived until he had evidence of the contrary. “Will you be alright if I leave you here for a bit? I need to check on something.”

The man looked at their surroundings, his eyes wide and worried. “Is it safe?”

“Nowhere in the city is safe right now.”

“Please,” the man paused and was wracked with coughs again. It took several breaths before he was well enough to continue. “My daughter. I must find her.”

“One thing at a time,” Cai said, in what he hoped was at least a partially reassuring voice. “I have someone I’m looking for too. It shouldn’t take too long.” There was barely anything left of their building to look through, part of it had disintegrated to rubble, but a small section of the first floor seemed sufficiently intact, scalded and blackened as it was. If Zhao-Fu wasn’t there, it meant his mentor had escaped somewhere and there would be a chance for reunion. He gently placed the man on the ground, careful with his injured leg. “Do you have somewhere outside of the city I can take you?”

The man considered the question and Cai stood, taking the opportunity. It was best to leave the man with a task while he checked the apartment. “Think on it a moment, when I return, we’ll handle that arrow and head out of the city.”

As he approached what remained of the building, Cai found himself holding his breath. Please don’t let him be there, please don’t let him be there, he repeated mentally to himself as he pushed aside a blackened door and stepped inside.


The old man looked up, startled by the large figure that approached him. The haze in the air made it difficult to recognize the Moeku, but as soon as the man who saved him was near enough to make out his features, Lian felt himself relax.

The Moeku seemed stiffer that earlier, his words clipped as he checked in with the man before kneeling down to him to tend to the arrow still protruding from Lian’s thigh. In his hands he held a long red pole that had burned in a few places, and a burlap bag from which he pulled the materials necessary to dress the wound.

“I cannot thank you enough,” Lian said, o when he was back on his feet once more, leaning heavily on the Moeku for support. “What can I call you?”

“Cai-Su. Did you think of somewhere I can take you?”

“Ah, yes, I did think of a place. Let us hope my daughter did as well and will meet us there. Come, it’s this way.”
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