Private Tales Forastero

Kishou

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"No, not rain." Rain would be preferable to this ominous chill the swordsman felt. Though in the summer they arrived, it seems they missed the seasonal rainstorms Kishou knew all too well in his youth. If not rain, then what? Vengeful spirits? Demons of the forest? Creatures of the night? Do not say anything to alarm the Priestess. Do not-

"Vengeful spirits of the forest, maybe?"

Idiot.

He laughed the remark aside. The forests here had always been a safe place. He hoped the queer feeling was of his imagination.

They made it well into the forest as the last remnants of the sun fell over the horizon, and set up camp off the path before darkness set over them completely. A small fire crackled, its light casting over the nearby trees. Kishou laid out blankets and bedrolls over them for the pair, purchases made before leaving Saijo.

The swordsman dropped the stick used to stoke the campfire into the open flame and moved to sit on his bedroll.

"Should only be a day, maybe two, until we reach the village below the temple. From there, we'll take a path up the mountain that leads to the temple." He turned to look at Amore, "how are you feeling?"
 

Amorea Delarosa

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"Vengeful spirits?" it was a question of alarm. Spirits were not something to be taken lightly on a good day, but vengeful spirits? That was cause for concern - that made her second guess, yet again, his decision to sell his swords. That-

Oh, was that a laugh? He was laughing. A joke. Ahaha. Amore smiled bitterly, "I think I would prefer the rain."

After finding a place to make camp for the night, Amore insisted on caring for the horse while Kishou set up a campfire and their bedrolls for the evening. Despite having no vision the Priestess knew her way around a pony. She pulled the saddle from its back and carefully set it aside, plying a handful of leaves from a nearby branch and bunching them in her hand. Moving with slow purpose, she used her free hand to find her way around, brushing the leaves across the sweatmarks while it munched on local ferns.

When she was done, with some help she found her way to her own bedroll and sat. Grateful as ever for a break from the saddle, the Priestess ran a hand through her hair which had come undone during their travels.

"A bit disheveled," was her simple reply, though she was sore and tired it wasn't her way to complain, "vanity isn't a sin we condone in the Church, but I find myself glad that there are so few to see me in such a state. What would they think of me..."
 

Kishou

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Kishou watched Amore for a while, smiling, and as she sat, his gaze fell to a small gourd of water near their unpacked supplies. He rose, moved to grab it, and uncorked it before walking to the Priestess' side.

"Water?" He knelt down, and as her hands fell from her hair to take the gourd, his took their place.

"I think," he ran his fingers through her hair several times, entertaining himself with it, "that they would think of you being far from disheveled."

Having enjoyed himself, Kishou began a simple braid with Amore's hair.

"Would you like to know what I think?" He quietly asked.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Some distant part of her told her that water was likely a good idea. The polite part of her accepted it with a quiet thank you. Did she feel as though she wanted or needed water?

Not nearly so much as she wanted or needed the sensation of his fingers in her hair. She stopped short of taking a drink, letting the gourd and her hands come to rest in her lap. The part of her that had curled up, drunk, next to Kishou at the Inn had somehow managed to reappear, only now the sensation of inebriation was replaced by the flurry of ... well, she wasn't quite sure, but her chest felt as though it were filled with a thousand maple seeds fluttering through the air in the wind.

Amore's cheeks pinked, "Is it that I should still be able to braid my own hair even if I am blind?"
 

Kishou

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"Even if you tried, I wouldn't let you," he chuckled and fell silent for a moment. "I think that even if you spent a hundred days in the sun, your beauty would not wane a bit."

As Kishou's fingers worked at the braid, his gaze fell to the young woman's nape. He was grateful for steady fingers despite the rhythmic thumping in his chest. In no time, the simple braid was finished, and he looked over it with dissatisfaction, not because it had been sloppy work, but because he realized he should have taken longer with it.

He moved to her side and opened his mouth to speak, yet no words came as his heartbeat rose into his throat. For the first time, for a reason he would not be keen to admit, he could not find any words to say to the Priestess.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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He was not the only one dismayed by how quickly it seemed her hair was once more in order. Amore thought she could have enjoyed his fingers combing through her hair for hours. Yet as the man came to sit at her side, soundless for all the world like he'd been struck, it reminded her that his presence was just as soothing and enjoyable.

Then that part of her from the Inn wondered if his presence alone was simply enough.

"Thank you," she broke the quiet, the warmth of her face having grown significantly over the last several minutes. Amore wasn't sure what she was thanking him for - his flattering compliment or his attention to helping her keep a sense of dignity in her appearance.

"Perhaps you will allow me to at least return the favor?" Amore couldn't recall the man keeping his hair in a braid, but she thought she might like to fuss with it just for the sake of fussing. After all, her blind braiding skills had been honed all day on the horse's mane.
 
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Kishou

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He sat up straighter, his cheeks aflush and burning hotter than the sun they traveled under. Kishou clutched the fabric over his legs and fought a mild smile. As he had used the ribbon that would have otherwise tied his hair for Amore's, raven locks hung loosely over his shoulders.

"Oh, certainly," he enthusiastically responded, and as he felt her touch, lost the battle against his smile. "I'm at your mercy."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Simple pleasures in life really were worth their emotional weight in gold. Amore waited for him to adjust his seat before reaching out to find his back with searching hands. They shifted lightly over the material of his kimono, finding the long tresses of black easily at his shoulders and pulling it all together gently.

The lengths were soft, near silky to the touch, with what seemed to be minimal knotting. A different sort of texture from her own hair, which held a wave and fell in loose curls when let free - far more readily twisting and knotting when not bound by a braid or ties. The Priestess smiled to herself as she ran her fingers through it, having no sense of hurry.

"So long," Amore remarked, "do all men keep their hair long in your culture?"
 

Kishou

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Kishou's hands fell into his lap, his head tilted back, and his eyes shut. A small smile spread over his features.

"Yes, for the most part. Our hair is our pride. To cut it is to shame oneself. Sometimes it is done out of penance. Monks cut their hair out of belief that they free themselves of corporeal wants."

He happily sighed, the rhymth of her fingers passing through his hair doing a great deal to relax him.

"Do you remember what it looks like," he quietly asked. "My hair, that is? What I look like?" It was something he thought of often, but always avoided asking.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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How curious, to attach ones pride to their hair. Amore supposed she could understand such a thing, but only in the way that men and woman prided their appearance. This seemed different. This didn't seem to have anything to do with vanity, but perhaps ...

She paused at his questions, a faint frown curving the line of her lips, "I remember ...certain things about you. That your hair is black as pitch, and your eyes near as dark - but in the right light you can see shades of amber, especially in the sun."

Her fingers continued their methodical combing through his hair, a section at a time.

"I remember that you wear blue, that your silhouette against the skyline is quite striking. That your shoulders are squared and your back straight and strong, and though you hold your head high, your gaze is never beyond your reach. As prideful as you may be, you have always come across as quite humble."

"I'm afraid my mental image of you has faded. There are things I can remember quite clearly about you, but only enough to put together an image that was as if seeing you through a fog."
 

Kishou

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What had he expected as an answer, the swordsman wondered. Certainly not such a humbling, poetic description of himself. A pleasant fluttering rose from his stomach into his chest and lifted his heart. Kishou shamelessly beamed.

"I see," he whispered and opened his eyes.

He looked at the fire, then the horse, then the trees and its branches and leaves. As a breeze rustled the canopy above, he perceived the entire forest's canopy swaying with the wind. He looked up at the rustling canopy, and for a moment could see the twinkling stars through it. To call it beautiful would have been shallow- the stars were like their surroundings, alive and breathing, watching over them.

"You think my back is strong?" He smirked and stifled a chuckle.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Amore felt a smirk of her own alight on her face for a brief moment.

"Men with posture like your own can hardly be considered weak in the spine."

Besides, he was a warrior. A swordsman. It took a certain amount of strength to fight the way he did.
 

Kishou

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Kishou turned, faced her.

"My arms, too, are strong. My legs. My chest and stomach. I am strong. Yet, why, when I am with you, do I feel so weak?"
 

Amorea Delarosa

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She very suddenly found the hair in her fingers pulled away and her hands closed around air. Whatever smile had been now suddenly vanished. Had she said something wrong? Had she offended his perception of strength? Had-

"My arms, too, are strong. My legs. My chest and stomach. I am strong. Yet, why, when I am with you, do I feel so weak?"

The Priestess blinked, faintly leaning away from the unspoken accusation. Though she wasn't even sure that was what she heard in his tone. Silver eyes lowered from where they had lifted to the sound of his voice, "I don't ..." her hands clasped lightly and settled in her lap, "I don't know. If I have said something to offend you I apologize."
 

Kishou

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He took both of her hands into one of his and tightly squeezed them.

"My strong legs feel unsteady to walk on when I am with you—my strong arms, unable to hold weight. My stomach twists into a knot. My chest flutters. I know that you have no magic. But, still, what spell have you put me under, I wonder?"

Suddenly, fear struck Kishou. He was scared that, when their journey came to an end, and they parted ways on the steps to the cathedral, he would never see her again.

"That foggy image you have of me, will you remember that forever," he asked, pained, "even when you grow old, will you remember that I existed? That I was here with you?"
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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The warmth surrounding her hands was enough to suffuse her limbs, traveling to her core where she felt it scatter another flurry of maple seeds in her chest. Heartbeat rising, the Priestess swore he'd be able to hear it if he got much closer. She wasn't sure what to make of these things he confessed, worried that her presence was putting him in such a state - perhaps she should offer him the last of her Gryphon's Blood.

Uncertainty painted her expression, head tilted as she listed, silver eyes cast aside in a listless stare, "Of course," she breathed, near overcome by his fear in a form of alarm, "of course I will. How could I ever forget you? ...are you planning to leave my side?"
 

Kishou

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"No! No, I would never plan to leave your side." His grip on her hands tightened for an instant before loosening. "I fear it. I fear returning to Cortos, only to be separated from you."

Kishou looked at the small hands, the slender fingers in his grasp. His thumb rolled over the curves of her knuckles. Of all of the people met throughout his life, the friends made, none meant what the Priestess did to him. Her assurance brought an odd sense of peace to the swordsman. If she remembered him, then he wouldn't care if everyone else forgot.

He breathed a chuckle. "How many things have we talked about? I have a million things to say to you, and a million more I want to show you. I want to see you, and stand by you, and talk with you about those million things. All I want in this world is to share breathtaking sights and make unforgettable memories with you. I want to begin everything from the beginning at your side."

What meaning would it have, being spared from certain death at the hands of the Radiant Church, if she would remain absent from his life?
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Listening to his words Amore felt her breath still in her chest, holding until the swordsman fell quiet again. There was a hammering in her chest not unlike the shudder of constant thunder or the violent surge of the ocean against the shoreline during a tempestuous storm. It threatened to burst through her ribs and she found herself bracing against it if for nothing else than to save face.

The Priestess was already enough of a mess without her heart running away with her.

"I..." how to respond to such confessions? Her future and fate was so unknown, sitting here in a foreign forest with a foreign man so far away from home. There was no certainty in anything except that, for the time being, she very much enjoyed his company and wished to continue having it.

"I don't know what to say, but your words and wishes are beautiful. Things I would want as well."
 
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Kishou

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"You would?" His gaze fell to the pair of small hands in his own. "As if they are things that, what, will not come to be?"

Kishou's lips curled into a wry smile.

"Maybe I should join in prayer at the church. Convert." He let her hands drop out of his grasp. "I don't want to leave your side."

The swordsman tried to imagine himself praying en masse, reciting holy scripture, singing, or whatever else they practiced within the church. He failed, even more so when attempting to envision himself dressed in a priest's habit. No, his lose kimono fit him much better.

Kishou frowned and let a quiet sigh pass his lips.

"I don't know what came over me. I'm sorry. I said many, many unnecessary things."
 

Amorea Delarosa

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"Kishou..."

A smile tried on her face, pained as it pushed against the tide of everything that she felt worked against the man's dreams. Somehow losing the warmth of his hands was more alarming than the crestfallen nature of his words. Amore reached her hands up, blindly seeking out the warmth again and finding the flat of his chest.

"I cannot say what my future holds. There is so much uncertainty fogging the path from here to home. What has become of me is ... unprecedented." So far as she knew, the Priestess was unaware of another within the Solar Choir completely losing their connection to magic and their eyesight. Who was to say what the High Priest would make of her now, if she returned unsuccessful in finding a cure to her ailments.

Fingertips smoothed across the fabric of his kimono, finding his shoulder and then his arm, following it to the end where they found one of his hands again. She wrapped her fingers around it, bringing it up to her face and pressing it against her cheek, "Do not apologize for speaking from your heart to me, I like it." There a warm expression nuzzled into his hand, free of that previous uncertainty. The man's candor had always been an endearing aspect and she would not ever wish him to deny his own sense of honesty.
 
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Kishou

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A deep, unfathomable expression of longing played about his features. His thumb gently stroked under her cheekbone. She was beautiful, a shimmering star, its light dazzling yet shining from thousands of years ago. A star that doesn't exist anymore- that does not glow in the night sky like it once did. But in its place, a tangible warmth more real than anything else in the world took on a blind woman's shape.

Kishou gently pulled the Priestess closer. Closer and closer until they could feel each other's breath, and even closer still until the side of her face was nestled against his shoulder. Strapping arms locked her into a tight embrace, and breathing in, Kishou could catch the faint, lingering scent from the bath in her hair.

"Could you humor me," he whispered, "and let me hold you like this for a while?"
 

Amorea Delarosa

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There came that uproarious thundering of her heart again. Amore dare not resist the tug, physical or emotional, and allowed him to scoop her up as she sat there, collecting her into his arms. Much as the gesture and sentiment was wonderful - his own warmth and scent enough to overwhelm the senses, she could not help the discomfort of the somewhat awkward angle.

"No," the diminutive woman uttered somewhere under his chin, "not like this-"

She shifted, twisting her legs beneath her from one side to the other, enabling her to more comfortably curl into the embrace and lean against his chest.

"There," Amore smiled, nuzzling more snugly under his chin, "like this." She sighed contently and sunk fully into his arms.
 

Kishou

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"Oh," he quietly exclaimed as she squirmed and adjusted herself under his arms, "oh. Yes, much better."

He smiled and let his cheek rest against her head. Could she hear the racing of his heart? Feel it drum against his chest? They were closer now than ever before—more than when they danced, where the gap between them had been a respectful one. Even more than the carriage that same night when she found a comfortable place to doze off against his shoulder.

Kishou stared past her at the fire. Flickering flames and the Priestess' steady breathing, coupled with the exhaustion built from the day, lulled him to sleep. After several minutes, which felt more like seconds, Kishou laid back on the bedroll under them, pulling Amore with him, and fell into the most peaceful slumber he has had in a year.

***
The walk through the morning and afternoon had been less taxing thanks to the forest's shade. They felt not the beating of the sun but instead the comfortable summer breeze that passed through the trees.

He had been telling her about the Five Swords of Kensui, the five legendary swordsmen that made themselves famous in the war that raged through Oboro a decade ago. Specifically though, of the only woman in the group of five, and how her exploits in battle earned her several titles such as Unrivalled Under the Sun, and The Gentle Blade.

"Her way of wielding a sword was unlike anything else. Like the water-dancers I once told you of, she floated across the battlefield, the glint of her blade appearing gentle as it cut man after man down. She was not the strongest or the fastest, nor was her technique with the sword the greatest. But, still, she-" Kishou looked over his shoulder as he told Amore of the swordswoman, but as his gaze fell back to the path in front of them, he froze completely.

Several feet ahead, in the middle of the path, was the eviscerated carcass of a deer.

Kishou's left hand fell to his waist, where he would have normally gripped the scabbard of his sword.

Of course, he grasped only air.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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For certain Amore could not find herself more grateful for letting go of her anger toward the man than now. Listening to his stories had always been an enjoyable experience, though he'd tried to soften the tension between them with his tales before - she was reluctant to admit she did not remember them. Memory, as such, had never been a challenge for the Priestess. Turns out that negative feelings could erase things far more easily than she knew.

She listened raptly as she rode along, a wane smile accompanying her listless silver gaze.

"Yes? She what?" Amore shifted slightly in the saddle as the horse came to a halt by Kishou, alert and tense as the scent of the carcass drifted their way.

"What is it?" the Priestess asked quietly, a hand drifting forward to take hold of the horse's mane - just in case.
 

Kishou

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Several thoughts raced through the swordsman's mind. What could have done this? Bears? There have never been any in these woods, though. Hunters would not make such a mess either. Then perhaps wolves? His gaze drifted to the hole in its gut- the entrails that spilled out of it. No animal did this.

He had left the Priestess with no answer as he thought. Jaw muscles danced as his teeth ground together. He scanned the trees around them but saw nothing out of the ordinary.

"Deer carcass," he finally answered with a sigh. "It just startled me, is all."

Kishou pulled the reins closer, walking closer to the horse than he had before as he cautiously approached the deer. He raised a sleeve to his nose and carefully observed it as he guided the horse around. A groan escaped from him as he leaned closer to look at the mess.

"Hasn't been here long," he mused, "only a few days, it seems."