Private Tales Forastero

Amorea Delarosa

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"Oh-" Amore raised her arm to her face, shielding her nose in the nook of her elbow, "oh dear."

It certainly smelled as though it had been there a few days, "Do you have many predators in these lands?"

Her head tilted as she strained to listen to their surroundings, though the sound of the saddle creaking and hte horse's hooves against the path echoed soundly through the trees. Birdsong seemed to have quieted and the eerie cloud of silence they'd happened upon set her nerves alight. Something felt ...off.
 

Kishou

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"Yes," he spoke through his sleeve, averting his gaze from the carcass and instead set his sight forward. "Tigers, wolves, bears, boars... Though, if I am being honest, I never remember any in this forest. Things can change over several years, but I am still concerned."

After leading them away from the carcass, he lowered his sleeve and testingly sniffed. At least the smell was gone, even if the image was not. And that unsettling feeling he felt before they'd entered the forest loomed over him once again. As if eyes, several sets of them, watched them as they walked the path.

A chill raced up his spine.

"Right, where was I..."

He finished the story of the Gentle Blade, going into great detail of the swordswoman before telling of the other three Swords of Kensui, oddly forgetting to mention the last one. They took short breaks through the day, and as the sun set Kishou guided them to a clearing off the path. It was a welcoming spot below a large, beautiful tree. Its trunk was larger than those around it, its flowing leaves almost like a curtain as they cascaded from the branches.

Kishou yawned, feeling far more tired than he should have. "Tomorrow we should reach the village below the temple. Then we will resume on the mountain path. Do you think the horse can handle it?"
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Amore was grateful, now, for the rest of the story to take her mind off the unfortunate discovery on their path. Such things did not bode well, but they were in what amounted to the wilderness - even if a path did cut through it. Still, animals had to eat.

Kishou had finished telling of the swordsmen though she thought ... could have sworn he'd said there were five. Only four had come to light as he spoke. Perhaps he was saving the last for the next day? She decided not to press it, tending to the horse once more as a new place of rest was found for the evening. Amore was running her hands along the horse's side and back, noting sore spots from their long days. She frowned, gently massaging over the areas of heat, "I think she would welcome a day off in the village. If the path is not so difficult, I could walk beside her."
 

Kishou

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"I've pushed her," Kishou regretfully mused and sat cross-legged by the fire, watching as Amore ran her pretty, small hands over the mare. He wondered what she would say if he admitted his calves were sore, and mischievously smirked.

"The path is an easy one until midway where it becomes steep. The stairs would be hard on her, I think." He sat back on his hands. "She will be in good hands in the village. In the past, many samurai and noblemen left their horses to be tended to as they ventured to the temple."

The swordsman's eyes felt heavier and heavier as the seconds passed. Odd, considering they hadn't pushed themselves nearly as hard as before. It had been a beautiful day as well. He found himself scooting back until he sat against the tree. It shouldn't have been, but it was incredibly comfortable. He stretched his legs out and settled in.

"I hope Toji is well," he mumbled, "he was like a second father to me."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Smoothing her hands over the horse's back once more, Amore nodded with a sigh. She was feeling quite tired as well, though less exhausted than their previous days spent under the relentless sun. Feeling her way along the trunk of the branch to where Kishou sat, she settled down next to him, "Then I suppose it would be best to leave her in the village."

An audible yawn escaped her, one she quickly tried to stifle but couldn't.

"I hope he is, too," her head found his shoulder as it seemed want to do, "for your sake and mine."

It wouldn't be much longer before the weight of her eyelids became too much to ward off.
 

Kishou

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A weary smile grew on Kishou's face, and he cast a narrow-eyed glance at the mare as if to announce to it that he had the last laugh here. His head leaned on hers, and heavy lids fell closed.

The sound of a struggle roused him from his sleep. He slept for hours, but it had felt like he only just closed his eyes. Almost immediately, he searched for the sound that woke him, only for his gaze to travel upwards.

The mare kicked the air, its body writhed and squirmed. Holding it up were long, twisting branches that coiled around the horse. The branches tightened and twisted the poor beast, its shrill crying cutting through the air.
The swordsman looked up, stunned, unable to believe what he was seeing.

Then bones crunched. Flesh ripped. The whinnying grew louder and louder until it abruptly stopped and the horse was ripped apart above them.

Kishou jolted and gasped, horrified and startled as blood and entrails landed on the grass in front of them.

He jumped to his feet and grabbed Amore by her shoulders.

"Amore!" He shouted and shook her. "AMORE! Wake up!"
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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It was not like Amore to lag behind in rousing to an alarm. Trained as she was as both a warrior and a protector, she was often one of if not the first to hear a threat coming. Not today. Something had taken a strong hold of her subconscious, lulled it into a deep and numb sleep. Try as Kishou might, his shaking and yelling only resulted in Amore's head lolling forward of its own accord.
 

Kishou

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The swordsman tried for only a moment longer before bending down to scoop the Priestess into his arms. He turned to run, ignoring the shower of blood and innards that fell on them as the horse was ripped into an unrecognizable state.

The tree's trunk twisted, swinging its branches and sending a spray of blood across the clearing. Kishou ducked under one branch. Avoided another. The third lashed him across his back, tearing his kimono and drawing blood. Another, over the shoulder. He barreled through and did not stop until he reached the path.

Heart still racing, the swordsman's head whipped about to check his surroundings before he knelt down and gently lowered Amore from his arms. He held her upright and lightly tapped her cheek.

"Amore," he hissed and shook her again.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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She was in a fog, red and roiling like a magma sea. It felt ... warm, effervescent.

Amore made a noise, strange sounds echoing into her dream. She smelled something ... metallic. Her eyes fluttered, a sudden sense of alarm taking her as she awoke to blackness. Still, every time she woke, the blindness caught her fright.

"Ah!" she jolted suddenly, feeling strangely sluggish as her limbs seemed not to immediately respond, "Kishou? What is it?"
 

Kishou

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A hand cupped her cheek. "Thank goodness," he sighed. "There's something wrong with the forest."

Kishou stood and pulled her up with him. "We have to go."

The deer carcass. The chill he felt. He had joked about spirits in the forest before but felt sick to his stomach now as he remembered the tree ripping the horse apart. Kishou grabbed her hand and began to lead her down the path.

"They say that as negative emotions and feelings aggregate, it works its way into nature and gives birth to... we call them Jurei, but to call them demons would be the most accurate translation." His kimono stuck to him as warm blood flowed down his back and shoulder. Superficial wounds, at least from how they felt. "I remember stories of travelers being guided off of their paths to rest for the night, only for them to never be seen again. We got lucky."

He frowned. Their horse did not.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"Oh, but-" Amore stumbled after him, one hand strung forward as he lead her by it, the other blindly feeling about the air as though it might help her avoid a wayward tree in her path. The suddenness of their departure and urgency in his voice, the way he spoke barely above a whisper, sent a chill up her spine.

"Demons?" she gasped after him. Amore knew demons - she'd fought them before and they had been a desperate challenge at the height of her powers and awareness.

"Kishou...the horse? We can't leave her."
 

Kishou

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Kishou's jaw tightly set. "It killed the horse."

His fingers tightened around her hand and he let out a heavy sigh. Everything was lost. What was the point of selling his swords, if he would lose the coin just days later? The supplies and food he bought on their way out of the city as well. Kishou glowered as he trudged on, Priestess in tow.

"I believe the demon had cast a spell to lull us to sleep. When it killed the horse, it woke me up."

They had just barely gotten away, but he could not shake the uneasy feeling as if something was watching them.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"What?" Amore found her feet had stopped but Kishou pressed on, forcing her to stumble after him, "No..."

She felt the pit of her stomach drop, but she hadn't time to dwell, "Is...is that what I smell? Her blood?"

Her free hand swung forward, making to grip him around the hand that currently had a cinch-lock on her other hand, "The deer carcass from before," Amore hissed at him, "are there are more?"
 

Kishou

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Silence affirmed her suspicions. Kishou wiped his face with his sleeve. A mix of sweat and blood stained the blue fabric.

"I fear there may be. We have to keep moving." He gave her hand a subtle pull. After a moment of biting the inside of his lip, he looked over his shoulder. "I'm sorry."

In a foreign land, the horse had been the one thing that connected her to Cortos. Kishou, now finding the time for it, briefly mourned its death.

Suddenly, a bell chimed from the forest. It was a faint, distant sound, but unmistakable. Kishou came to an abrupt halt and faced the noise. He saw nothing, yet the noise grew louder.

ding.

ding.

ding.

He squeezed Amore's hand and began walking with long strides, his heart hammering in a most unpleasant way.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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As soon as Kishou's steps stopped Amore ran gracelessly into him with a startled yelp. Her nose smarted, having found the tense and very solid, blunt side of his shoulder, and she quickly rubbed at it with her free hand. A distant chime caused her to shiver - not for the suddenness of it, but for the sense of it being utterly out of place.

"...what-" and then Kishou was off again, the grip on her hand tighter now. Amore's heart was thundering in her chest, her lungs now burning from the fright, her legs feeling rather much like jelly. The Priestess was not in the same shape she was back on that godforsaken island, coupling that with the void of her sight and she felt as though she were floundering to keep up.
 
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Kishou

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No matter how quickly they walked, the bell only seemed to get closer. And closer. And closer. Until suddenly, the rhythmic chime that they had come to expect fell silent. Just as abruptly, wailing echoed through the forest. A woman's shrill voice cried out in song, the eeriness causing Kishou's skin to crawl.

A second voice, just as piercing and loud, answered the first. Then a third. The three voices matched, the woeful chorus coming from all sides of the pair. Kishou's brisk pace sped up even more now, almost to a light jog, pulling Amore further and further with each step. Panic and fear set over the swordsman, who in not having any swords at all, worried for the woman behind him. If it was just him, he could simply run. But it was not just him.

He swallowed hard as a blur of white crossed over the road in front of them. White garbs, white skin, and hair darker than black stood ahead of them. Kishou slowed to a halt and tightly held Amore's hand. His head spun around.

Two had emerged from the forest behind them.

"Tall," one of the demons uttered.

"Strong," another added.

"Conceited," the third spat.

"He smells of a man!" They cried in unison. "Of blood and anger! Love and fear!"

The three demons danced, twirling where they stood, their white dresses gracefully fluttering around their bony frames. Their black hair seemed to float in the air as they danced and laughed and cried.

Kishou, who was rendered speechless, pulled Amore close to his back.

"Another smell!" The demon in front of them abruptly halted her dance, balancing on a single leg and unnaturally contorting her body. Her torso was parallel to the ground, though her chest pointed up towards the sky. Its hair cascaded down, creating a pool of black on the road. Kishou saw bloodshot eyes and dark bags under them, blackened lips and jagged teeth through a sickly grin.

"A woman!" One of the demons shrieked behind them.

"Young, afraid, and... tender. Confused and conflicted, as she listens to her heart, guilt claws at her conscience."

"Oh, what a lovely meal they will make!"
They screeched in unison.

They continued like that, speaking vaguely of the pair as if they could see into their minds. Dancing, as if performing a sick ritual.

"Amore," Kisou weakly muttered, "there are three. Can you run? We must run."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Shivers took her, unnaturally strong and uncontrollable as Kishou pulled her close. There was no way he wouldn't feel them just as there was no way she could quiet them. The presence of darkness had always been her greatest threat as a vassal of the light. Somehow, despite her severance from her magic, she could still feel the weight of the blight settling in around them.

Amore had Kishou's hand gripped tightly in both of her own, squeezing as she felt the hairs along her scalp raise in reaction to the sound of the voices. They spoke like nails across a chalkboard with words she could not understand, though the intent seemed clear.

Danger.

"I-" why was it so hard to speak? "I will try."
 

Kishou

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"We will be fine," he took a deep breath, and whether he spoke to himself or her was unclear, "be strong."

Squeezing her hand, he suddenly dashed towards the trees. The demons laughed, cackled as if playing a game as the pair disappeared into the forest. Kishou pushed stray branches away and frequently checked over his shoulder. He suddenly changed directions, looping back around towards the path.

Suddenly, a long arm lashed out from around a tree. Try as he did to avoid it, long nails raked across his cheek, drawing blood. Kishou let a sharp gasp escape, and his attempt to avoid the arm caused him to lose his footing and unwittingly drag Amore down with him.

Before he could pull himself up to his feet, several hands clawed at him, nails digging into his skin, ripping apart fabric and drawing blood.

"AMORE!" He shouted as he felt her grip on him suddenly disappear.

One pulled Amore away, dragging her by the ankles before holding the young woman's face down in the grass. The demon leaned down, its breath unnaturally cold against the back of the Priestess' neck. The demon salivated, drool spilling over its lips and onto Amore's skin.

Sharp teeth sunk into the young woman's shoulder.

The swordsman vainly struggled to free himself, screaming and shouting in a fit of rage.

Hideous laughter filled the night.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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She would be as strong as she could for as long as she could manage, but Amore worried it would not be enough. She did not trust her body now, not like she did before. It had already proven weakened and frail - what a prison it felt to be in compared to what it had once been. When would her strength return?

Legs burning, lungs caustic, it was only a matter of time before one of them fell - though she was surprised that it was, in fact, Kishou who fell first. Amore held on to him as fiercely as she could, but the claws that had ensnared her ankles were far more fierce. A deathly cold shot up her limbs at the touch and she yelled in terror as she felt Kishou's hand slip from her own and the ground tumble away beneath her.

Face suddenly pressed into the ground, the fright left her in trembling breaths. The fact that she could not see their assailants was perhaps a blessing, but perhaps she might've been more couragous if she could.

Or less...

Struggling beneath the weight and the chilling breath, Amore attempted to find the Solar Star pendant just beneath her neckline, a prayer of the Brightfather escaping her lips in the native Cortosi. But the words shortly split into a agonized scream, muffled by the ground.
 

Kishou

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Fear for his own life washed over like a frigid wave as nails dug into his neck. Kishou desperately kicked and punched and elbowed, hoping to free himself. He did not. Nails dug deeper into his skin. Began to cut into his neck. Tears began to fill his eyes as he looked at the mess of red hair and demon atop it.

"Amore!" He barely managed a bloodcurdling scream, "It'll be fine! Amore!"

Kishou gritted his teeth as he felt blood trickle down his neck.

It came in a flash first, then a wave of heat that seemed to evaporate sweat in an instant. The demon on top of Amore suddenly flew off; white garments lit aflame. As it rolled through the grass, the flames did not extinguish. The struggle only seemed to feed the growing fire, and it was burned until nothing, not even ashes, remained.

A figure emerged from the darkness between the trees, much taller than any man Kishou had ever seen. It had pale blue skin, and its eyes were entirely pale. Dressed in white garments and gold armor, he stomped across the grass, leaving behind smoldering footprints. A spear was in one hand, and a small pagoda in the other.

It wore a stern expression and held the pagoda out. A column of fire shot out from around its extended hand towards the two demons that held Kishou. With alarming speed and a chilling hiss, they evaded the flames. A deafening cry rang in Kishou's ears as the two demons danced in unison, stepping closer until their flowing garbs tangled together. With the fluidity of water, they appeared to melt into a single form.

The demons, now merged into one, nearly tripled in height, towering over even the mysterious figure. The flowing white clothes that the demon wore split at the bottom, where many mutilated arms and heads emerged. It lunged down to attack but was met with another column of flames.

The flames did not affect the demon, and several sets of arms reached out at the strange being. A single swing of its spear severed the arms, and a second ripped through the demon's body, sending a spray of blood over the grass and the figure itself. The blood hissed as it evaporated against its skin and clothes. A third swing of the spear nearly cut the demon in two. Each time its blade sliced through flesh, flames erupted from the wounds and engulfed the beast until nothing remained.

Without hesitating, it stomped towards Amore, and placing the horned tip of its shoe under her shoulder, flipped her over onto her back with its shoe. The point of its spear lightly pressed against her throat.

Kishou roared and leaped at their apparent savior and would-be killer, but was effortlessly swiped away by the back of its hand. Kishou flew into a nearby tree, his back slamming against it with an audible grunt of pain, and he crumpled to the ground.

"What are you?" It said in a language foreign to even Kishou. It contemplatively grunted before attempting Kishou's mother tongue, then repeated itself finally in Common.

"What are you? Why do you walk these lands?"
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Amore lay with her back against the ground, chest heaving for breath, face blanched and halo'd by the red of her hair now loosely coming undone from its braid. Her moony eyes stared upwards, glazed by the pain of her shoulder and the terror of the encounter. She need not see the point of the spear to know she had a weapon at her throat - she felt it well enough.

In her left hand she clung to the pendant that hung on the golden chain around her neck.

If she could have looked more shocked to hear the words of common from the mouth of her new unknown threat she would have.

"A Priestess -" she murmured, her throat raw from screaming, "from the Solar Choir of the Radiant Church in Cortos. I'm here to be healed ..." her eyes blinked, watering but not yet shedding tears, "please. We meant no harm or disrespect."
 

Kishou

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"You lie," its voice boomed. Its accent was, oddly enough, one Amore would find familiar. The Common that it spoke in was smooth and rich like one would expect from a man born and raised in Cortos. "Your kind does not belong here. Your mere presence is disturbing."

The spear pressed harder against her throat, enough to be moderately uncomfortable. Metal warmed against her skin.

"Take me not for a blind fool; I see you for what you are, demon."
 

Amorea Delarosa

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"I am no demon!" Amore could not tell if she was more insulted or frightened as the point of the spear pressed into her neck, "I am a Priestess of the Divine Order! I once healed and blessed and burned with the Sunfather's Light - but no longer," her free hand lifted to the blade at her throat and gripped it with waning strength, "I cannot touch magic anymore, cannot sense his light."

"I cannot even see."


Now the tears rolled. So this was what she had become - hopeless and helpless in the face of certain death. If he was teaching her humility she felt it, painfully so.
 

Kishou

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Divine Order. Sunfather. Those words meant nothing to the figure that held her life in its hands. It knew not of the woman's history, but it could see- no, sense her true nature.

"Pitiful creature," it impassively thundered, "you cannot touch nor see. Neither do you understand. Your power to bless and burn came not from another, but from yourself."

It fell into a contemplative silence. The spear lifted from her neck.

"Did you think you were human?"
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Amore shivered beneath the reverberations of the being's voice in the air, brow knitting over eyes closed tightly. She was trying not to cry, trying to will away the feelings of uselessness. If this was to be when and where she died, she could do so in glorious defiance of the lies it told.

How dare he ... it, call her a demon.

The spear lifted away, in preparation to make the final blow, maybe?

"What else would I be?" she scoffed.