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PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, '10, 5:44 pm
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It was a few hours before midnight when Ti’Er Kaire slipped quietly out of her room and headed toward the gate of the monastery. Clad in a thick beige shirt and bear-fur vest, with a leather cap covering her shoulder-length blue hair, she stole quietly through the corridors, keeping away from the paper lanterns that lit the place at that hour. She stealthily made her way from one building to another and within a few minutes, had reached the exit of the Wudan Temple. Soon, she began descending the multitude of stairs that led down to the base of the mountain.

Kaire had spent the day preparing for the journey, away from the others. Most of the time had been spent in her quarters, which were fortunately located away from the courtyards where the Wudan students practiced their martial arts and more importantly, away from the living quarters of the male students. Part of the day had been spent packing; Kaire was carrying a small backpack whose contents included two changes of clothes, a mat to sleep on, some money which her father gave her for whatever her necessities might be, and some food, mainly dry fruits. More important than the contents of her backpack, however, were those items related to her call as Taoist priestess, including her wooden jian, her eight-trigram mirror, and a leather pouch containing vials full of different chemicals, powders, and other objects which she might need to do battle with the supernatural. Naturally, she also brought her trusted piercers with her, which she kept hidden in a deep pocket inside her vest.

The cool evening breeze made the short, spiky hairs on Kaire’s neck stand on end as she walked briskly down the steps. Her mind was a chaotic mess of different thoughts and worries, but for now, she tuned it all out in favor of concentrating on her task at hand, which was to get away from Wudan without being seen or spotted. The trip to the capital would take about a week, hopefully less, she thought, and would afford her more than enough time to ponder and sort out the numerous doubts and conflicts that raged within her mind. By now darkness had completely enveloped the mountain and to make things easier for Kaire, another thick fog, quite common in Wudan, began to descend from the mountain. Kaire slowed her pace as she ran down the steps, but felt otherwise invisible as the thick mist hid her from any possible wandering eye.

It was Kaire’s plan to travel all through the night and the following day in order to get a good head start on the others. She had rested a good portion of that day, her father informing the others that Kaire had been feeling ill due to “complications that plague all women on a monthly basis.” Kaire chuckled quietly to herself as she thought about it, but was grateful for such an explanation, as it would help to cast away any suspicion from the other four as to her whereabouts.

It took almost an hour and a half to make her way to the base of the mountain, but soon she reached the small village that lay at the base of the staircase. The village was already slumbering, save a small inn where some travelers were still awake and drinking, rather boorishly, thought Kaire. Kaire stayed away from the village itself and took a path that circumvented it in order to get to another road that would take her north toward the capital.

***
Two days had already past, and Kaire continued to make her way northward through the endless series of wheat fields and rice paddies that blanketed the fertile earth of the central regions of the empire. Having spent a good portion of her life on Wudan and the immediate area around the mountain, she had never experienced the fullness of the beauty of the country she lived in. She gazed in admiration and the golden fields of gently-swaying wheat that covered huge square-shaped tracts of land. It was this closeness to nature that helped her compose her thoughts.

Kaire’s main concern was what she was going to do as soon as she reached the capital. Her father had told her seek the truth as to background of the decree, but she very obviously couldn’t go to court and start snooping around. As both an outsider and a woman, that was out of the question. She could look for other Taoist priests and inquire of them, but if she fell in with the greedy sort of priest who was more a paid ghost buster, as her father put it, that would also prove less than advantageous to her mission.

Kaire also used the solitude of her journey to think about what she would do if her father’s suspicions were right. After all, if the government had decreed the genocide of an entire race of spirit beings, what could she possibly do to help? It’s not like these beings readily trusted Taoist sorcerers. Nor did it seem very reasonable that she could ally herself with them and take on whoever was responsible. As a good as a martial artist she was, taking on a government official would put her at odds with an entire army, which would be just suicide. The more she thought about it, the more confused she became.

Finally, her mind was further plagued by thoughts of that cursed Zi-Ou. His final smile to Kaire from when he walked out of the temple a couple of days before lingered in her mind. What did he mean by it? Did he actually like her? She shuttered at the thought. She had always sensed that something was a bit off with that character, but now the feeling came back with the force of a punch to the gut. What was Zi-Ou up to, if was up to anything at all? Kaire struggled to stop thinking about him and focus on the task and problem at hand, which currently eclipsed all other concerns, personal or otherwise.

***
Four days had gone by, and Kaire had now reached the next province, where the capitol was located. She was still wandering about the rural parts of the region, but had occasionally made her way through some small cities. She had spent her nights in some local temples that dotted the region. What Kaire did was simply ask people if there were any Taoist sanctuaries in the region. Being pointed in the right direction, Kaire would go to the temple if it were located within a reasonable distance of the main road. There, she would present the monks with a letter from her father, who apparently was known throughout the land. The Taoist monks would then allow her to stay the night at the temple.

Kaire had made most of the journey on foot, although occasionally a merchant or farmer would give her a ride on a horse-drawn cart. She was most grateful for those few demonstrations of kindness, since they allowed her feet to rest from the hours of non-stop walking. It also gave her someone to talk to, as the miles of endless plains, while giving her a lot of time to think, often bored her and made her feel quite lonely. Unacquainted with the world outside of Wudan, Kaire took advantage to learn about the people of the region and how life was in the central plains of the empire.

Kaire continued walking down the main road, which currently ran through a series of sorghum and corn fields. The women working in the fields occasionally looked up and stared at her. Kaire smiled and waved at them, who responded by simply returning to their labors. Kaire wiped the sweat from her brow. She removed her leather cap during the day as it was too hot to wear, and instead wore a gold-plated headband that her mother had worn before she passed away. It was the only thing that Kaire had to remind her of her mother, who died when she was still very young.

Near the end of the day, a merchant heading in the other direction said that the capitol was only a two days’ journey from where she was. Kaire felt relieved at that and picked up the pace a little in order to cover the distance as soon as possible. Despite the danger of bandits along the way, Kaire travelled until the later hours of the night in order to get in at least two days of investigation before Zi-Ou and the “ego bunch” arrived.

***
It was shortly after dawn on the sixth day when Kaire came within view of the walls of the capitol. She stared in awe at the vastness of the city from the top of the hill she stood upon. The city seemed to stretch for miles in all directions, the tall buildings beyond the walls seeming to number more than the grains of stone that made up the Wudan Mountain. Kaire gazed upon the mass of urban construction for a few minutes before descending the hill and making her way to the city gate.

It must have been around six o’clock when Kaire walked through the city gates. Even at such an early hour, the roads were so full of people that she could barely see her a few feet in front of her. Hundreds of stalls lined the numerous avenues, its owners selling all manner of fruits, candies, and other assorted goodies. The smells these foods produced made Kaire’s stomach rumble. She reached into a leather pouch that hung from her belt and produced a few coins. She purchased two steaming hot pork buns from a local vendor and made her way to a less densely-populated alleyway to enjoy her small breakfast.

Finishing her meal, Kaire sat down for a minutes to think about what she would do next. She was in a huge city full of millions of people, none of whom knew or cared who she was or why she was there. As she sat pondering, she had an idea. Kaire got up and left the alleyway, looking for a more secluded one where she might not be seen. It took her a while, but she finally found a place where she was more or less alone. She reached into her vest and pulled out one of her piercers. Taking a quick glance to confirm that nobody was looking at her, Kaire cut the tips of two of her fingers on a sharpened end of the piercer. She then ran her bloodied fingers across the smooth, cold metal surface of the piercer, especially where she had etched in the numerous runes.

The runes began to glow, giving off a dull, but easily seen yellow light, which contrasted greatly against the silvery metal. Kaire then touched her forehead and muttered a few words under her breath. She twisted her hands and ran her fingers along the rod one more time, after which she slipped her middle finger into the ring of the weapon and quickly pulled her cuff over the part of the rod that extended past the palm of her hand. It began to move on its own pointing in a random direction.

Kaire began to follow the piercer wherever it pointed. Luckily for her, the throng was so great that nobody noticed the female Taoist sorceress in men’s clothing walking around with an iron rod sticking out of her sleeve. She had to be careful not to poke any one in front of her on accident, though. She followed the rod as it led her from one street to another, up and down numerous alleyways, from one residential district to the next. It took almost two hours to make her way through one section of the city, since some of the larger avenues were so congested with people that she had to move at a snail’s pace.

She followed the rod diligently, however, which ended up leading her to a house in a residential district far from the gate through which she entered. The house was on the other side of a large stone gate. She looked around; the neighboring house seemed to be a foundry or smithy of sorts, judging from the loud sounds of clanging metal that came from beyond the wall. She thought nothing of it and knocked on the door a few times.

In a few moments, a young servant girl opened the door. The servant girl said nothing at first, but simply looked over Kaire from head to toe. The girl seemed rather interested in the mirror that hung from Kaire’s belt and the wooden sword that was strapped to her back.

“Excuse me,” Kaire said shyly. “May I speak to your madam?”

“One moment, please.” The servant closed the door and Kaire could hear her going back in the house.

A few moments later, Kaire heard the patter of little feet and the door opened again. Instead of the servant girl, however, was a beautiful young lady with long, turquoise hair. The maiden was dressed in a light pink gown and was fanning herself against the early morning heat. Kaire, not knowing what to say, tried to force out a smile as the maiden stared at her.

The maiden finally spoke, also trying to sound cheerful. “I knew that I would eventually be having guests—“she paused and sighed. “I didn’t expect a woman, though.”

Kaire seemed a bit shocked. “So you know—“

The maiden cut her off. “Of course, I do. We know many things that you don’t.”

“Well, my mission here is a bit different than what you might expect. Please, can we discuss the matter indoors?”

The woman looked at Kaire strangely, and finally relented and opened the door fully, letting her in. “May I ask your name, kind visitor?”

“Of course,” answered Kaire genially. “I’m Ti’Er Kaire of Wudan.”

The woman, who was walking toward the house, stopped for a moment. “The name Ti’Er is quite well known among those of our sphere.”

“I imagine so. And may I please know your name?”

“Yes, you may. I am Lung Saya.”
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