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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, '10, 12:16 pm
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In a forest somewhere in the mountainous regions of the Eastern Islands, a young couple trekked cautiously up the steep dirt path. The wife, a young red-haired lady, guided her husband, a blind man, up the path that rose and fell as it meandered through the small valley that cut through the ridge. The couple remained quiet, although once in a while they would stop to catch their breath and the man would lovingly stroke his wife’s face and run his fingers through her long, flowing hair.

At length the two reached a clearing and decided to stop again. As they did so, the wife realized that they were not alone. Looking up, she saw a humanoid figure sitting in a large tree branch, staring at him with a pair of small red eyes. He was covered with blue feathers and had a small bird’s beak where his mouth should’ve been. Their eyes met and the woman tugged her husband’s arm and whispered something into his ear. The creature in the trees remained silent and continued to watch the couple slowly.

The man and woman rose and walked toward the tree, stopping a few feet from it and, kneeling down on the leaf-covered ground, bowed to the creature.

With a loud squawk, the creature leapt from the tree and landed in front of the couple. “Who are you and why do you seek my presence?” asked the creature, a tengu, in a loud, demanding voice.

The man spoke up. “I am Cha-Zi, a disciple of Li Si, who once studied under your tutelage. This is my wife Ri-Ge.”

The tengu nodded in contentment. “Li Si. An excellent pupil she was. I am told that you all were able to defeat the powerful Lau Shek.”

Ri-Ge nodded. “Yes, Master Grizu. Li Si and another fighter, Ti’Er Kaire of Wudan, defeated him.”

“So, why are the two of you here, then?” the tengu asked.

Cha-Zi reached into his coat and pulled out two iron fans and untied the sword that hung from his belt. He handed them to the tengu. “Li Si asked us to return these to you with her most heartfelt thanks. She also asked us to give you this note.” Cha-Zi handed Grizu a small piece of paper.

Grizu read the note carefully and remained silent for a few moments, staring at the blind man and his beautiful wife.

“Very well. I shall honor my student’s request and take the two of you in as my students as well. However, before we begin, we need to consult the kappa known as Raja about your futures. I have a feeling that your destiny lies in this great land.”

***

Li Si took a break from practicing her martial arts forms to gaze upon her companion, Ru-Ne, who sat in the corner of the Hunter’s Guild hall writing. Ever since she had exposed Lau Shek’s plot to overthrow the emperor and convince the Court to pardon the Hunter’s Guild, Ru-Ne had taken it upon himself to write the stories of the heroes who had fought so hard to save the country from tyranny.

“How is your story coming?” Li Si asked affectionately.

Ru-Ne looked up at Li Si and smiled. “Not bad. I’m nearing the halfway point. Writing books is far more fulfilling than sitting in a chair on street waiting for some young man to ask me to write poetry for the girl he loves.”

Li Si laughed at that. “You never write poetry for me, my dear.”

Ru-Ne turned red. “I’ll make a point of correcting that,” he said quickly.

At that moment, the door to the guild open and two people entered. The first was a large, tall man with jet black hair. He wore strange clothing, a white shirt that opened at the chest and a pair of beige pants that were made of a different fabric than the trousers that most men wore. He was accompanied by a young lady with long green hair and a bright, infectious smile. She wore a dress that Li Si had never seen before.

“Is this the Hunter’s Guild?” asked the man with a heavy accent, which immediately confirmed Li Si’s suspicions that the two were foreigners.

Li Si nodded. “Yes it is. How may I help you? I am Li Si and this is my husband, Ru-Ne.”
The man looked at his young companion and grinned. “Your reputation precedes you, Miss Li Si. I am Firenze, captain of the Canavela. This is my daughter, Demi. We hail from Portugal.”

Li Si nodded. “I’ve heard of that place. Well, if you’re a ship captain, what do you need with an escort company like the Hunter’s Guild?”

“I’m told that you’re one of the best fighters in this part of the world. I have a mission to deliver some important goods to a port in the southern regions of the country. However, the number of pirate attacks has been increasing dramatically, so I’ve decided to go overland. I’d like to hire your services.”

Firenze looked at Demi and nodded.

“Shall the two of you be joining us?” inquired Li Si.

Demi nodded and smiled. “Of course. And don’t worry about me, I can handle my own in a fight if need be. The young lady reached into the small silk vest that she wore over her dress and pulled out two objects that looked like metal tubes attached to wooden handles.”

Li Si lifted an eyebrow and looked over at Ru-Ne, who shared her look of intrigue.

“I’ve heard of those,” the blue-haired scholar commented. “’Guns’, I believe they are called.”

Firenze and Demi nodded.

“Well Mr. Firenze, we’ll have to sit down and work out the particulars, but I think we can do business together.”

***

Kaire wiped down the counter of the bar at the restaurant inside the inn, now called Heping Fandian, or “Peace Hotel.”After the decisive battle with Lau Shek, Kaire decided to stay behind at the inn and change it into a place for protection for people on the run, be it from the law or otherwise. She still kept her fox spirit waitresses, who entertained her guests and made sure that there was always food for those staying there. The Peace Hotel had become of a sanctuary for those needing a second chance to start over again and put their past actions behind them.

As the last of her guests retired to their rooms, Kaire went into the kitchen and returned with a small bucket of water. She stepped out of the inn through the back door and made her way to a small garden. At the far corner of the garden, away from the numerous vegetables that grew, were two large plants. One was a large, blue bellflower and the other was a white Cape jasmine plant. The two plants grew next to each other, their stems and roots intertwined, the two largest flowers of each plant growing close to each other.

Kaire watered both plants and gently caressed the petals of each of the two large flowers. As the blue-haired woman returned to the inn to take care of her other duties, she heard the sounds of two people, a young man and a young woman, laughing and reading poetry to another.

Kaire grinned and went back inside the old building, the Taoist temple that she converted into a hotel, the place she now called her home.
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