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Amorea Delarosa

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She startled slightly at the suddenness of his voice at her side, "Oh -" and switched to look his direction much too quickly. Her head spun, throbbed, and she winced, pressing the heel of a hand into her brow.

"...oh..." a Cortosi utterance left her lips that indicated she might be swearing, "I - for a moment I could not remember where I was." The Priestess groaned, slowly letting herself back down onto her pillow, brow furrowed, "Remind not to drink ... whatever that was we had last night, again."
 

Kishou

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“Oh?” Kishou chuckled, “you seemed to enjoy it plenty. Moderation, Amore. Moderation.”

Well, if he couldn’t get her to partake in the future, at least it would leave more for him. He could live with that.

Kishou tucked a wild tuft of hair behind his ear and smoothed his hand over his head in an attempt to tame his tousled nest.

He could hear singing cicadas in the courtyard.

“Perhaps I should have stopped you at some point. You barely left any for me to drink.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"Why didn't you," the woman attempted an accusatory pout but she mostly only managed to attain a look of deeper suffering, "I didn't know what it was. Thought you might have a laugh at the drunken Priestess?"

Ufff. She kneaded at her temple, the other half of her face lost to the fluff of her pillow, "Well I hope you're happy with the results."
 

Kishou

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“Why would I laugh at you?” He retorted. A frown pulled at the corner of his lips. Kishou flopped onto his back and locked his fingers over his chest. “It looked like you were enjoying it.”

He chuckled and stared up at the ceiling. “The greatest blessing bestowed onto people is the ability to live and experience new things, and to learn from them. The man we are going to once told me that.”

As far as results went... well, he couldn’t complain. Despite being left wanting, the previous night was a pleasant, vivid memory.

“How does food and tea sound? Perhaps that will tame your ire towards me.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Amore's lips pressed into a thin line. Whatever test the Sunfather was giving her in patience was proving to be a challenge.

Food and tea did sound grand, but...

"Kishou," she chided, her voice dropped to just above a whisper, Amore leaned up on one elbow, silvered eyes skating towards the origins of his voice and dropping to look just below, "we cannot pay for it. We cannot pay for any of this."
 

Kishou

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Kishou turned to look at her, winced, then looked at the opposite side of the room.

His gaze fell on the pair of swords that neatly rested on the floor next to the small wooden table they shared dinner at.

His prized, invaluable swords.

We won’t ever come back here. You won’t even be in these lands for long. Is what he wanted to say.

“We can pay.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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"How?" the question was less incredulous and more one of disbelief. He'd already said it was very unlikely they would accept the coin from Elbion, even for their material value. Amore had nothing to barter with, nothing of value with her - everything had been in the carriage. Everything.
 

Kishou

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“I do not need my swords for where we are going,” he said, staring at them still, “I can sell them to the smith. The coin will be enough to cover any costs on the journey.”

Kishou forced himself to look away from them and back at the ceiling.

“So. Food and tea?”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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A deep frown settled onto her expression. Part of Amore was crestfallen at the idea of Kishou being forced to part with his swords. She knew what he was, and his swords were part of him as much as magic had been a part of her. To give them up? The very notion was enough to make her ill.

But another part of Amore, a smaller but stubborn part, thought he deserved this fate for taking her away.

She didn't know what to say. There were no words to express the duality of her feelings towards that end. They were his swords to do with as he wished, but it still felt wrong. Everything about all of this was wrong. Amore said nothing, her expression likely saying more than enough, and nodded.

She sank back down onto the mattress, rolling first to her back, eyes closed.

"I think I need to rest just a little longer..." and then rolled to her other side, facing away from him.
 

Kishou

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After several seconds, Kishou sat up and glanced down at Amore’s back. For a moment, a most fleeting moment, he wished that the Priestess simply hated him. Fresh memories of the previous night gnawed at his stomach, the feeling of her touch tickling at his face. His lips.

Kishou rose from the futon and gently tread across the floor to the swords, where he bent down to pick them up. He looked at the pair of swords, and reminisced over the countless fights he wielded them in. The careful maintenance he’d done on them. They truly were an extension of himself.

“While you rest, I’ll go out.” He said, tucking the swords into the sash that tied his yukata closed.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Rest she did. It wasn't the peaceful rest she was hoping for, but it was rest nevertheless. Amore was not typically the sort to worry or fret over things, but she could not recall a time in her life where another person had weighed so heavily on her thoughts. Kishou selling his swords bothered her on a profoundly deep level and it nigh made her feel ill thinking about it.

When she could not stand the silence any longer, Amore carefully departed from the mattress and felt her way over towards the screen doors that lead out to the courtyard. Though she could not see, she could feel the warmth of morning sunlight shining in and wished to bask in it while she waited. It would bring her a sense of serenity she felt was missing - or so she hoped. The Sunfather was never any further away from his children than the sun itself.

She sat out on the decking, having found a warm sunny spot to occupy, and carefully worked at the coiled tendrils of her hair with her fingers, pulling them apart in an effort to reaffirm some sort of tidyness to her appearance. A fresh braid would most certainly be a welcome routine, if only she could get through all these cowlicks.
 

Kishou

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Kishou's swords were not only of the highest quality, but they were the missing pieces to a legendary collection of blades forged at the command of the previous Shogun to only his most loyal retainers. The smith could not believe that a wandering swordsman carried them and believed it even less when Kishou offered them for a bargain.

So as to not reverse his decision, Kioshou returned immediately, purse clutched tightly in hand. He stood in the doorway, expecting to see Amore but was only met with the silence one would expect from a vacant room. When faced with the room's emptiness, a deep anguish finally gripped at his heart. He spotted the cracked screen door across the room and listlessly shuffled across the room, dropping the coin purse on the table as he passed it.

As he entered the courtyard, he saw Amore sitting under the sun, fussing with her tangled hair. The swordsman, if he could still be called that, knelt behind the young woman and reached for her hair. His fingers brushed against hers.

"May I?" he softly asked.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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She was, perhaps, not putting as much effort into the endeavor of untangling her hair as she could have. Truth be told, even the gentle, warming rays of the morning sun could not lift the shadow that had returned to her mind. Try as she might to find that same connection with the Sunfather, with her powers, no amount of prayer or meditation gave her any reprieve from the drought.

As Kishou found her, the Priestess was not really fussing so much as simply ... grousing. Grieving. Running her hands over the same section of coiled scarlet in the slow, repetitive motion of a woman who felt worthless.

She did not startled this time. She'd heard him approach, knew by now the feel of his hands and the gentle tamber of his voice. Soothing, as always. Amore struggled with the sensation of words in her lungs, blocked at the choke point of her warring emotions. Her fingers stilled, then abandoned the section of hair to let him to it with a nod.

"I am sorry ... about your swords. I wish there had been another way."

Part of her hated saying it. A small but strong part. Still, the Priestess' nature and empathy won out.
 
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Kishou

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Kishou took the section of hair, and let it set in his open hand. He sat in silence for a moment, contemplating her words while he stared down at the strands of crimson.

“They are only things.”

Yet parting with them was no different than experiencing the passing of a lifelong friend.

Kishou quietly passed section after section of her hair through his hands, combing them with his fingers. When he finished, he pulled all of her hair to one side.

“But... Thank you,” he took a small section of hair from her hairline and began a simple side braid. “We have enough to pay for any food or lodging on the way.”

Where Amore sat under the sun, Kishou sat in the shade, only his hands and wrists soaking in the sun’s rays. As he added more and more hair to the braid, he tied it off with the white ribbon he used for his own hair; shiny and silky, yet somewhat tussled and frizzy, raven locks fell over either side of his face like parted curtains and cascaded over his shoulders.

“There,” he said as he tied the ribbon at the end of the braid. Kishou breathed a small chuckle. “Not quite to Mithri’s standard, I don’t think. But it will have to do.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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Much like his voice, the man's presence and touch was soothing as well. Often times she found him greatly to be like nature itself. No matter where he was he simply seemed fit to be there, unintrusive, quiet, at peace. The truth of the matter likely escaped her - he rarely talked about himself in a way that revealed his inner thoughts or feelings. Perhaps he was terribly torn up about the loss of his swords, who could really say but him.

The gentle tuggings on her hair was enough to still her fretting mind and let her find an ounce of serenity. Amore couldn't see the courtyard or the gardens contained within, but she thought she could feel it somehow. When his hands fell still and she felt the weight of the braid over her shoulder it was almost as though it was just enough to break the binds of the two opposing emotions within.

She'd realized half of her exhaustion, if not more, was due in part to her anger at the man. At his choices. What was a Priestess of the Solar Choir, one who spoke the gospel of the Sunfather, who touted forgiveness, if she could not forgive? If she did not believe one could be redeemed? If the willful sale of his most and, likely only, prized and valuable items was not enough to prove penitence she didn't know what was.

"I don't...want to be angry with you anymore. I cannot bear it. It's not me, it's so exhausting. I am sorry."
 

Kishou

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Kishou’s hands rested in his lap, one holding the other.

"I don't...want to be angry with you anymore.
He squeezed his hand.

I cannot bear it. It's not me, it's so exhausting.
Tighter.

I am sorry."
Kishou’s grip on himself relaxed. He leaned forward, only slightly, bringing his head and shoulders out of the shade and into the sun. The swordsman squinted, not because of the light, but to quell the stinging in his eyes. He rested his forehead against the back of Amore’s shoulder and closed his eyes completely, letting out a deep, almost relieved sigh.

“You have nothing to apologize for,” he murmured.

Just as loneliness and despair weighed his heart down, Amore’s forgiveness alleviated the burden.

“More than anything else,” as the stinging in his eyes became more severe, Kishou closed them tighter to combat it, “I feared that you would hate me.”

That fear loomed over him every second of every day since he had taken her, even during their sake-fueled moment of intimacy in the bathhouse.

“It tore me apart.”
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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The weight of his head against her shoulder took the woman by surprise. Heavier if only for the burden of his contained emotions. She frowned, head tilting just slight. Though she could not look at him, acknowledging his worries still came as second nature. Amore supposed if she were to never see again, it would take many years to lose the habit of such things.

"Kishou," the woman cooed gently at him, "I could never hate you. ...not for long, anyway."

Then a smile, warm like the rays of the sun. She felt lighter, since letting go of the feelings plaguing her mind. The umbrage of negativity felt lifted from her and for the first time since stumbling into this landscape, Amore took a breath that was not hot with bridled fury.

It was good to remove these burdens together so that they may make the rest of their journey without another stumble. The Priestess gently leaned her head against his and settled a hand into the grass, palm up, as an open invitation to take it.
 

Kishou

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Kishou sharply chuckled and opened his eyes, wiping them with the palm of his hand.

"So, you did hate me for a short while, then?" He jested, and when he saw Amore's hand, scooted on his knees into the sun next to her, where he sat, cross-legged, and took her hand.

He greatly enjoyed the Priestess' weight against him, but more than that was soothed as, finally, the conflict between them had been settled. Kishou then closed his eyes again, not to combat the urge to shed tears, but to simply savor the moment. The sun's warmth, comforting breeze, and most welcome presence of the woman next to him.
 
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Amorea Delarosa

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And just like that, she was back in the carriage, weary head leaned against her traveling companion. Without the presence of bad news freshly given, it was a pleasantry she realized only now that she'd truly missed savoring. So rare was it for someone of her stature to share moments like these with anyone.

"Longer than a short while, shorter than a long while," Amore replied, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.

She felt warm again, but comfortably so.

~~~

"What is it?"

They were on the road again, Amore sitting astride their horse and a landscape of mountains on the horizon. Kishou had taken time as they walked in the shade of trees to describe the scenery to her in the poetic detail he always used. After a pause, the Priestess found herself with a small round object in her hands a bit slighter than a grapefruit.

"A pomegranate," Kishou had replied and explained how to eat the fruited seeds inside. Amore found a split prised open in the fruit and sampled the seeds with surprise.

"It's sweet, delicate even. Almost like ... a flower," and then her brow furrowed and lips pursed, "but do you ... actually eat the seed?"

Spitting was frowned upon, of course, for a Priestess.
 

Kishou

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The heat and walking had been far more bearable now that conversation filled what used to be an uncomfortable silence. He told her folk tales, history, and anything interesting that he saw on the path. He also told stories about the man they were going to meet, Toji Arima.

He had stopped to pick wild pomegranates, one for himself and Amore.

"Well, I suppose you don't have to," he said as he crunched on a mouthful of seeds, "Toji would always say 'food is not to be wasted, be sure to eat it all!'."

They walked through sparse woodlands and could see the mountains through the canopy. As they took a bend in the path, despite being so far from the mountains, a solitary gate stood ahead.

"Oh, a torii!" Kishou exclaimed, "we're on the correct path."
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Amore frowned, not wanting to be wasteful but also not wishing to break appearances. She crunched down on a seed, chewed, and swallowed with a faint grimace. Perhaps not her preferred fruit, but in a pinch she supposed it would do. At least the taste was pleasant even if the experience was not.

"Does Toji also chew on the bones of his cooked poulettes?" she smirked, picking out another fruited seed and nibbling the flesh off it, "a what?"

Because, naturally, she hadn't the visual cue of the gate.
 

Kishou

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"No!" Kishou hesitated a moment, "Wh-what is poulette?"

He hadn't seen Toji eat animal bones before. But... he wouldn't put it past the old man.

"Torii are gates. They are like... arches. But their purpose is to give direction. If you follow torii gates, then you will reach one of the many shrines or temples in these lands. Nobody knows who left the first torii, but as new shrines and temples were erected, people began to build torii. To keep with tradition."

They passed under the gate. It was the first of many on this path to the temple. It was one of several hundred littered about Oboro.
 

Amorea Delarosa

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"A chicken," Amore smiled, deciding that carefully nibbling the seeds was better than chewing on them, plus it gave her something to do. She'd spent the last several hours braiding and re-braiding the mane of the horse while she listened to Kishou talk, like she was now.

Try as she might to picture the torii in her mind, her mental bias was to the architecture styles of Cortos - vastly different from that of Kishou's homeland. She actually hadn't any clue what the buildings and landscapes here looked like, truely. Even with his poetic descriptions, words simply could not do the view justice.

"How do you tell one route of Torii from another? Are they different?"
 

Kishou

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Oh. A chicken.

"Usually by a sign on the torii. It would say where you're going- whether it is a shrine or temple. Sometimes they are painted. Sometimes by the wood or stone used to build them." But he didn't need any of those to know where these torii led.

Kishou looked back at the gate, then to Amore. She looked well. Whether she was, he couldn't say, but she also looked happy. Or happier, at least. And ever so beautiful. Whatever god it was that saw to relieving the tension between them, he would be sure to leave an offering to them during their next meal.

The swordless swordsman turned his gaze forward, down the dirt path and towards the thickening forest and darkness beyond it. Kishou rubbed the back of his neck, where a chill ominously crawled over his skin.

Perhaps the breeze?

Hopefully, just the breeze.

"Hopefully, there is shelter," he frowned, "I don't want to sleep outside tonight."
 

Amorea Delarosa

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Signs. Of course, signs. Amore remarked something to herself under her breath, in Cortosi no less, to speak nothing of common sense. These maybe foreign lands filled by an unknown culture, but it wasn't as if they were uncivilized. Regional indicators of materials and color - naturally - as any cultured people would do.

How do you tell one route from another? Honestly. Perhaps her lack of magic had dulled her wits.

She gave up on the pomegranate, distracted instead by dwindling thoughts, when her ears thought they sensed a modicum of discomfort in Kishou's words.

"Is it to rain?" the Priestess asked earnestly, tilting her head back as if to look toward the canopy of the forest and the patches of sky beyond, "Normally I could tell, even without seeing. I could simply ...feel the change in weather."

Now she felt nothing, but that much they had already asserted.
 
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