Private Tales Forastero

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Kishou

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"Of course," he cooed and began to pull his clothes back over his shoulders, "I didn't mean any disrespect. Though, if I may speak candidly, it is a hard thing to resist the urge to tease you." He warmly smiled and quietly snorted.

"Come here," Kishou moved back, giving her space back on the bed if she decided to take it, "I speak so much. I would like to hear more about you."

****
The afternoon and following evening, Kishou talked more about the conflict that ravaged Oboro, about the many clans that warred against each other for control, and of the religion that was the core of his people's culture. The swordsman found himself stuck on explaining the imprecise, conceptually fluid nature of the religion where there was no central authority to regulate or control the practice or set doctrines for the religion.

"There is no exact translation for Kami in the common tongue," he mumbled, "there are countless Kami, young and old, and practitioners believe that they reside everywhere, even if they are not seen or heard. Nor are they necessarily... omnipotent beings. Toji could explain much better. There were even some humans that, after their death, became venerated as Kami."

Finally, they reached the top of the path. In front of them was the last of many Torii, a wooden plaque with the characters for Sunlit Peak painted on hung from the gate. Behind it was a massive waterfall and a large pond. The path continued around the pond, where only a few small buildings were spread out rather unevenly from each other. The largest of them all was the temple's shrine.

"There's nobody here," he quietly remarked.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"They sound like ... spirits," Amore remarked gently. While the edict of another religion wasn't something she could readily swallow, that didn't mean she couldn't learn and listen. Knowing more about his country and people could only serve to help her on her path here much like learning the language - which she had taken up practicing again with Kishou over the past few days of their rest in the village.

"The Nazrani people of the Aina O Kala islands are very spiritual. As I came to understand it, they have a broad hierarchy of Gods, and a plethora of lingering spirits that act as conduits for various aspects of their lives."

Of course the Nazrani were not a divulgent people. Learning this information came only as a result of an Assassin who had been captured in Cortos fleeing pursuers from distant kingdoms. Amorea had been quite young, an Acolyte of the Cloth who only aspired to be granted the rank and title of Priestess one day. She'd witnessed her mentor's investigation into the Assassin.

Ultimately, the dark-skinned geist had been burned for his many heinous acts across Arethil.

"Is seems to be of similar ... nature." She came to stand beside Kishou as he gazed around the temple grounds, listening to the sound of running water and allowing her senses to indulge in what the scenery had to offer. It smelled of lush earth, crisp air. The scent of bamboo was foreign to her, but she maintained a sense of the forest that surrounded them.

There's nobody here.

Amore tilted her head to one side, straining to hear anything that might suggest the presence of others, "Should there be?"
 
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Kishou

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"Well, I remember there being dozens of monks, even more training to become monks. All throughout the year, people would come to worship the shrine." He frowned. Of course, that was... how many years ago? Nearly a decade?

"During the summer, when there was nobody here, we would swim in the pond. And in the winter, we would go further up the mountain to the hot springs." Kishou led her around the pond, quietly looking around. They approached the shrine, which despite the temple's emptiness, it was clear that somebody regularly tended to it. On the path leading up to the shrine, several smaller auxiliary shrines made from stone were lined up off to the side. As they stepped up, Kishou held his breath.

Even after all this time, he expected to feel something. The connection between him and the Kami was dead as the day he left.

"People come to pay their respects. Others come to have their wishes be heard. This used to be a place enlivened by the Kami. You could think of it as a sacred place ripe with magic."

"The Kami here have closed their ears."

Kishou turned to the soft, wavering voice. An older man stood behind them, dressed in a simple black kimono. He had narrow beady eyes, hollow cheeks, and a bald head. His skin was tanned and wrinkled as if he had been left out in the sun far too many days.

"My, my, Kishou. Welcome back." He stared somewhere between Kishou and Amore.

"Toji," the swordsman smiled, relieved to see the monk still breathing. "This is Amore, a Priestess of the Solar Choir of Cortos."

"Cortos," Toji echoed in thickly-accented Common, then chuckled, "This country, I know it. Gooood silk!" His sandals shuffled against stone as he stepped closer. "I am Toji." He extended his hand and let it hang between himself and Amore. "May I have your hand? I should like to see you."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Though the old man's voice was gentle like the rustle of fallen, dry leaves, Amore could not help the shiver of surprise at hearing it. As ever, she found herself vulnerable to shock. How she missed her attunement to the world around her - as though Magic were a sixth sense she'd mastered, one that filled the gaps between all other senses. Not that she had never been taken unaware before, but somehow she'd lost her grounding along with her magic.

"Master Toji," she offered as she turned to face the direction of his voice, nodding her head respectfully, "I... yes, of course."

Amore offered her hand, then hesitated as she noted the strangeness of the request. Her hand... to see her?

"Forgive me but ... are you blind?"
 
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Kishou

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The monk laughed, "Just Toji! I am no master."

The palm of his skinny, small hand touched Amore's. Toji nodded and pleasantly hummed. "My eyes have not worked for my whole life. But I am not blind because of that." He paused a moment, his brow pinching for not even a second before pulling his hand away, his warm demeanor returning. "Such a beautiful young woman."

Kishou rubbed the stubble around his mouth and smiled into his hand. "We need your help," he said, his hand dropping back to his side, and with it his smile, "Amore is-"

Toji raised his hand, "I understand. I can try."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Amore blinked her hovering gaze, allowing it to settle lower toward the ground as she listened. So short was the greeting, he'd barely touched her hand and yet he was complementing her? She didn't understand but it seemed pursuing this confusion wasn't as important as using the man's time wisely.

Toji seemed to see more than he let on - beyond the sight of his eyes that he did not have.

"I have been to the greatest Doctors and Healers of Liadain, spoken with some of the wisest Sorcerers of our time. No one has been able to offer a reversal to my ailments."
 

Kishou

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"Reversal is wrong," his voice trailed and he faced Amore, "it is wrong because you are... empty. How can nothingness be reversed?"

Toji muttered, trying to find the right words. "Do you know about beavers? There are beavers in these mountains. Have you ever seen a beaver pond dry out? You are like a dry pond. Somewhere there is a dam keeping water from refilling that pond." He smiled, "Break the dam."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Amore found herself in a similar position of feeling as though she should be offended but not overly certain that was right. Despite herself, she frowned. Break the damn? She wished it were something so simple as lifting a dam gate.

"I'm afraid I ..." thought it was much more complicated than that?

"... don't understand."
 

Kishou

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A stern, contemplative expression washed over the monk’s face. After a moment of silence, his features softened again.

“You had power, but lost it all. Consider that your all was only the fraction of a whole that is locked away.” He chuckled, “that being said, I do not have all of the answers. Whether you recover or not, that is up to your tenacity.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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She looked fretful for just a moment, brow knit together and a weight hingeing a downward curve on her lips. The man spooked her and Amore wasn't sure why. He reminded her of the visitor in the wood, the one who had claimed she was not of this world. A daughter of the night sky. How did he know such things?

Silver eyes gazing toward the ground wavered as she processed the moment. Remembered to breathe. Felt the warmth of Kishou standing at her side. With a nod, Amore attempted a smile, "Of course ... of course."

No one had all the answers.

A breath.

"When do we start?"
 
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Kishou

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“Have you eaten? We may start with filling our bellies.” He turned and walked towards one of the buildings. Kishou followed, Amore in tow. “I should like to learn about your life, Amore. Where did you come from? How have you lived? Do you have regrets, dreams? What do you love and what do you hate? I would also like to learn about your religion and your powers.”

He entered a small shack, and the pair followed in behind him. It was completely modest. All that was inside was a pot and firepit to cook, a small table, a straw cot, and other small necessities.

“I hope soup and fish is enough,” he said as he began to start the fire.

“Wait, let me,” Kishou instead prepared the meal.

Toji looked towards Kisho, a small smile on his face. He then turned his gaze back to Amore.

“Forgive my asking, but you seem so young.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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She stood where Kishou left her off, just inside the entrance to the small shack. The feeling was cozy, homely, welcoming, and she could judge it by no other virtue. The monk spoke quite a bit and asked even more, leaving her feeling a bit overwhelmed. He wanted her life story? She felt as though she had only spoken a small portion of it to Kishou, and they had traveled for months. Just how long did this old monk have?

Folding her hands quietly at her front, the Priestess allowed the reeling of her mind to come to a sudden stop at the astonishment of her age.

She blinked despite herself, a sudden sense of self-awareness settling over her like a gray cloud.

"Why does this surprise you so?"
 
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Kishou

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“It is just curious to find you attached to this ruffian,” his soft chuckle was interrupted by a small coughing fit. “Ah, what does age matter...”

It fell silent, save for Kishou attempting to spark a flame in the pit.

“How did you lose your powers at such a young age?”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"Ruffian..." Amore echoed, brow furrowing. She knew the word was spoken in jest, though by her recollection she surmised Kishou could not have been much older than herself - not that she had ever inquired his age. The monk was right, what did it matter the age of her guide, protector, and traveling companion?

Her gaze searched blindly in thought for a moment as she pondered how best to summarise the event on the island.

"I was sent to oversee a Cortosi conquest to the distant lands of the Nagai, as a representative of the Church and of the King. When we arrived to our destination the Commodore ordered a small contingent of ships to investigate an old Cortosi outpost that had gone silent some time ago. I departed with the mission, and we found the outpost empty with signs of malignancy. We discovered a spore that when inhaled infected the victim, changing them into ... something else."

She frowned, finding that she could recall the appearance of the creatures on the island far more easily than she could that of Kishou.

"Instead of abandoning the mission and returning to the fleet as I suggested, the Captain ordered the men to make camp. By sunset the entire outpost was overrun by these strange creatures. I set off to find the source with Kishou. We found it. A great tree. I could not in good conscience allow this monstrosity to spread, not after seeing how easily it overcame our forces. I sent the others away and I burned the entire island to ash."

Somehow recounting the events still did not make her question her decision. Amore felt she had done the right thing, effected the only appropriate choice for the good of her people ... the world, maybe.

"In doing so I overextended my magic - I could not pay the balance for what was spent. When I awoke in Cortos over a month later I was blind, frail, and my connection to my magic had been severed."
 
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Kishou

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"Hoh!" Toji quietly exclaimed, "the entire island? You resolved to die, but you still live.”

Silence again.

“The magic lost, what I believe is a part of a greater whole, can never return... What is your first memory of using magic?”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"Fire cannot harm me," Amore replied somewhat hastily, "...at least ... not before."

But now? She muscled through a reflexive grimace, resolved now to keep her emotions in line and her expression straight.

"I was five," the Priestess blinked, "and I was in the courtyard garden of the Church with my Matron, learning about the flowers. A sparrow flew into a window nearby and fell into the bushes. She wanted me to leave it, let nature have it's way, but I climbed through the dirt to find it because I could still hear it chirping. It had a broken wing..."

For several long moments she fell silent, remembering the day as clearly as if it had just been, or was now.

"My Matron asked me when I held it out to her What do you want to do with it? and I said I wanted it to fly. So she leaned down and told me that what I really wanted wasn't for it to fly, but for it to heal because it would never fly again with only one wing. She told me to think very hard about mending its wing, so I did and it happened."

Amore gave a light sniff and smoothed her hands gently over her robes, clearing her throat, "But that wasn't the first time I used magic. Not according to my Matron. I had used it since infancy without meaning to. They called me a Prophet of the Sunfather, a Prodigal daughter."
 
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Kishou

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"How gentle," Toji remarked, "and how remarkable. So you were never taught magic, but guided to honing what was innate.”

The monk gazed into the small fire that Kishou cooked with.

“In your Church, were you the only like that?”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"No. There were other children like me, ones that had shown a natural talent for magic from a very young age. The Priests of the Church are the saviors of the people, the protectors and speakers of the Faith. When parents in the city give birth to child who display magical powers, they are taken to the Church to be assessed for their talent. Those of higher ranking are offered a place at the Church where they will be cared for and trained to become a Priest."

A shallow breath, Amore folded her hands at her front, "It's a highly honored position. I grew up with six other children in the Church."
 
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Kishou

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“I see,” he nodded, “it is a rare thing in these lands, for children to be born so gifted. We do not have an order such as your Church.”

Kishou set fish and soup down in front of the two, then for himself. Toji pressed his hands together and offered a silent thanks before taking the soup to quietly sip from it.

"Were you different? From your peers? Could you do things that only you could do?"

The swordsman quietly sat and watched the exchange with a wry smile. Toji's questions never ended; his desire to learn about people never sated. Though now, his questions had a specific purpose: to help.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Amore wanted to remark that Toji's lands were quite rural and that Cortos was a great collection of many separate Kingdoms. Though the Church did not reach every one of them, it kept a close eye on the people that I oversaw, of which there were countless.

"Well, aside from my power over the flames I could heal. I suppose that did set me apart from the others. There was only one other Divine Healer in the Church and that was my Matron. She mentored me and taught me a great deal."
 
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Kishou

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"Fire represents a..." he turned to Kishou, "what is the word for two contrasting aspects of something?"

"Duality," the swordsman answered.

"A duality of chaos and purity," the old monk smiled, "one of the most worshiped and powerful Kami is often depicted with wearing flaming robes." Toji gently set the wooden bowl down in front of him. "I will do what I can, but you must have patience. The process will be long. Tiresome."

Perhaps far longer than either Kishou or Amore would have anticipated, as they found the scorching heat relent after a few months. Then came the crisp, cool air of autumn. Green leaves turned a myriad of warm colors as they began to cover the temple grounds. Kishou often swept them away.

The temple had fallen into a state of disarray, and over the course of their stay, Kishou tended to everything that needed attention. The swordsman had little to nothing to do with the actual healing process and only saw Amore between sessions with Toji.

The temperature gradually fell as the days passed. Kishou could see his breath at all times of the day. Found himself cutting plenty of firewood. Carrying supplies from the village below up to the temple.

Then finally, snow. It came late in the morning and covered everything by noon.

Kishou ran across the temple grounds to the prayer hall and entered. Amore and Toji had just concluded an early session when the swordsman burst in, his nose and cheeks reddened from the cold.

"Amore," he excitedly called out, "snow!"
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Long and tiresome were likely the two most astute words Toji may have uttered, even if most of what the old man spoke was to that regard. Amore dug deep into her reserves for patience, pushed away the current of doubt and hopelessness that always seemed to linger around every failed attempt.

She didn't feel any different now than when she arrived here. She was no closer to regaining her magic or her sight - but she was learning.

New skills, new ways to use what senses that remained. The Priestess had progressed from needing Kishou's hand to find her way around and navigate the temple grounds to memorizing their paths and making her own way. They had a dwelling here within one of the old buildings that Kishou worked tirelessly to fix up. Amore could now conduct her daily routine without the aid of another, as well, she was getting better and better with the new language - but still not yet fluent.

So when Kishou's exclamation rang through the heavy quiet of the temple in a word she'd never had any need to use in any language, it took the woman a moment to process.

"What?" head tilting in curiosity, Amore reached for the carved wooden staff to her right and carefully moved to a stand. The open doorway let in a bitter chill and a crisp whip of wind that cut quickly to the bone. She shivered at it, having struggled somewhat with the growing cold of winter here. It was a season she'd never experienced before.

Then it dawned on her what he'd said and she seemed to perk, curiously, "Show me," she smiled.
 
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Kishou

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Folded over his arm was a thick blanket. As Amore made her way towards the open door, Kishou stepped in and draped the blanket over her shoulders.

"Come on," he said, grinning, and stepped outside. A deep inhale stung his nose and filled his lungs with cold air. A thin, steamy cloud rose and quickly vanished as he heavily exhaled. The swordsman turned to face the Priestess. "Do you remember, Amore? In Cortos, I told you that snow would cover everything. It's like a blank canvas."
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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How kind and thoughtful of him to know her so well that the offer of a blanket was now almost second nature to their interactions in the cold. Amore no longer jumped at the sudden weight of a blanket on her shoulders, and while she did not come to expect it of him she was indeed grateful every time.

Thank you, gently uttered to the man as she stepped outside, finding the echo of her staff to end, muffled, in the blanket of cold white covering the sanctuary grounds. She could feel it softly crunch beneath her sandals, taste the crispness of it on the air.

Feel it on her cheeks and eyelashes.

A smile warm enough to melt those on her face flushed pink, recalling with curious clarity the promise Kishou had made to her in Cortos. That he would one day show her his lands covered in snow.

"It sounds beautiful," she only wished she could see it, but feeling it was still enough to create some excitement. Amore held out her hand, palm up, to let the flakes fall upon it, a shiver lifting her shoulders.

"It's cold."
 
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Kishou

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Kishou folded his arms across his chest, tucking his hands under his arms.

“It is, isn’t it?” He chuckled. A puff of breath rose and vanished. “When I left years ago, it snowed just like this.”

He stepped to Amore’s side and playfully bumped her shoulder with his. “I prefer it to summer heat.”