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Black Seeds, Black Hearts - Part 3


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((I apologize for my very limited English.

Previous part (from ages ago) http://ffxiv-roleplayers.com/showthread.php?tid=12649 ))






The sky was painted red that morning. From the room he'd been resting in, the lone Xaela could hear a ruckus almost since sunrise. The Raen lamentations carried a clear message to his ears: the patriarch of the Hagane clan, who had departed the previous evening to help in the frontier's ranks, returned home as a lifeless body. As a warrior he lived, and as one he met his tragic, yet honourable end.




Her steps were soft in the corridor, almost unnoticeable. Yura's expression was a blank canvas, stoic and calm as she always seemed to portray herself. She didn't hesitate to open the door once she reached it, and with a delicate tone she made her presence known.




The mere sound from the door opening made every gaze inside the room turn towards her. Yura found her mother exactly as she thought she would; half lying on her futon - where she spent most of the time - crying, surrounded by a few female servants. Her aunt, a proud and strong warrior unlike the heartbroken woman, was by her side as well. Heavy was the weight on the warrior's shoulders now, for not only did she had to comfort her disconsolate sister, but also had become the new ruler of the Hagane clan. Everyone would depend on her now.


“Yu… Yura…!” her mother whimpered, the pain more than clear in her voice and thoughts. “You… You knew! ...You knew everything!! You saw his end, didn't you?!!”


“Calm down,” the other woman said, placing both hands on her sister's shoulders. She knew it was sadness speaking, clouding those thoughts to the point of blaming her own daughter.


The accused girl remained by the door, standing up above everyone else with an unchanging, serious expression. She might have a weak body, just like her mother, but her family name was reflected in her mind of steel. When her lips parted to speak, her voice was the same calm sound from before, the one which didn't let anything come through.


“Yes, I knew what would happen,” she confessed. “But I could not sacrifice my life for father like you did. It was not my place to interfere with his fate's designs.”


As she pronounced the last words, her eyes narrowed slightly, coldly. She'd just thrown an accusation of her own, one that couldn't get any sort of reproval from her mother and her aunt, no matter how much either of them could despise her for not preventing such a tragedy. The heartbroken woman could simply close her eyes and cry. Cry, for this was the end of everything she'd sacrificed everything for, including her own daughter. And yet…

“I do not hate you, mother,” the young female added softly. “You simply took your path, just as I shall take mine now.”

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The blurred and bloodied visage of his opponent lying crippled below him seemed as though it could have been an accurate reflection of the devastated remnants that remained to be felt of himself in that moment - two Xaelan warriors of impressive size and build, each battered within an inch of their lives and with little more than the parasitic blotches of obsidian protruding uniquely from beneath the film of crimson in which both were bathed. Nhogai's chest heaved with each lung-slicing breath he stole as a fiery glare that could shatter mountains weighed down upon the other whom was only too eager to return the favour. The latter's teeth bared themselves in protest against the mind-numbing pain that tore itself throughout his leg, his trembling hand weakly hovering above the haft of a small blade - once belonging to him - now lodged deeply within his flesh. The brief seconds in which he had felt the assured advantage within his grasp had fled beneath the desperate though successful attempt of his competitor to deter him with a hasty, ranged attack. Nhogai had never shown a particular aptitude for throwing knives in his limited experience with them, though he welcomed the single remaining opportunity that had been left to him when a ferocity fuelled by desperation responded in haste as he beheld his panicked opponent racing down the rocky slope, his goal to reach for the bow and quiver which had escaped him during their scuffle and bring about a certain end to the one-on-one battle. It was an accurately-landed jab to the throat which had allowed him the chance of escape beneath his foe's indomitable strength, one that was only exaggerated further when Nhogai's weight would only work against him and bring him to stumble upon the loose rubble that had laced this section of the mountainous incline that lay underfoot. A bizarre terrain to have found themselves landed upon, though through the chaos of battle it was determined that their personal war was one of attrition, with neither male daring to let themselves emerge the loser, each taking turns to push the advantage against their rival before inevitably being bested in their counter attack by an enemy of equivocal strength - and though it were Nhogai whom had landed the deadly blow, the odds yet remained against him.


Yes, Nhogai had made his mark; though that had earned him little more than a few seconds... and only left him completely unarmed in the most unfortunate of positions. With nothing of his own to offer in retaliation, Nhogai was no more than a sitting duck. Even his fellows, all capable warriors whom should have been somewhere nearby, had known to return without him, even should they have proved successful in their own battles. They knew better than to risk seeking him out should his encounter have seen him delayed for longer than was expected, and it was in their ability to follow orders above heart that he trusted in them to not attempt coming to his rescue. There would be no hope of a last moment rescue. He was on his own.


Nhogai gritted his teeth as a sharp exhale announced both his desperate search for inspiration and his failing ability to continue hiding the extent of his injuries much further. The man's glare darkened into something even more dangerous then as it frantically set itself upon anything and everything around him, his determination to emerge victorious in this battle triumphing above every shredding ounce of pain that tore throughout every inch of his body as it screamed it's silent requiem of agony... and even further above the pathetic and unXaelan-like fear of mere death.




Even while crippled, there was no hope for Nhogai to close the distance on his foe before he would have reached the bow which lay only a few feet ahead of him, and with nothing of his own to use in his defence, Nhogai's growing frustration only intensified to critical levels, seeing his boots digging only more heavily into the rubble underfoot and stealing his balance even further than before. A furiously desperate glare saw him snap at the neck repeatedly as he fought valiantly to retain his own footing in his endeavour, unknowing of what options yet remained for him to take. He needed..... SOMETHING. He could not die here. Not now. Not to cowardly vermin like this.




....something.... something..... anything.........











From the sudden and enveloping darkness pounced forth the vaguely familiar view of a stone ceiling, a structure of foreign construct and one which he had yet to learn to grow accustomed to awakening to. As had been the case with every moment he had found the ability to earn himself some rest, he was once again greeted by a visit from those charred memories whose loathsome existence had served as a prelude to the series of events that had led him to assuming a residency in this Raen settlement. A fatigued gaze masked by a deceptive facade of apathy gently narrowed to encourage focus, as the blurry scenery that met his eyes slowly faded toward the edges of his vision to meet with a hazy return of the world's colour which curled and wisped their way across strained eyes, much like a dye leaking it's stain into a flowing stream. Around him, the weak hues of the early morning were noticed to be have slowly begun canvassing across the quaint room space, quietly reminding the awoken Xaelan that this was to be the third time that he were greeted by such a sight; the absolute limit of Unzan's willingness to offer his crude and disrespectful presence any futher hospitality - assuming that his daughter's queer claims were not to be believed. He blinked slowly as he lay upon his bedspread, willingly allowing his thoughts to be carried in a slightly different direction. When the time came, just what end he would inevitably pursue this day even he did not know, and strangely, he could not find it within himself to offer much care to the matter. Either way, his fate would seem to have been sealed. What remained to be achieved before that end, however, remained uncertain to the Xaelan.




It was soon after his awakening that the stillness of that morning would find itself meeting with an unnatural disturbance. Curiosity need not have been a vice for the scene to have earned the man's attention, seeing him so far as to rise from his humble bedding and make his way closer to the doorway so as to interpret what little he may from the inconsistent muffles and shouts that could be heard emanating throughout the household. It wouldn't take long for him to learn of Unzan's fall, curious as it was to ponder just how such an event could have come about, though his reaction was anything but afflicted. It mattered little to him what fate had in store for even he who had near-threatened to bleed the Xaelan's throat only two days previous, nor what effects it might have upon the potential of a more prolonged visit on his part. He was, after all, neither an enemy nor an ally in his mind. His departure from this realm held an equatable meaning to that of leaf loosing itself from a dying tree.


...How curious it was, Nhogai would however note, that he would meet his end on today of all days.

In a twisted way, it seemed darkly ironic that perhaps his daughter had indeed been right about his absence of objection in the end.




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  • 6 months later...

[align=justify]The day the Hagane patriarch died was black, and albeit it is said that time heals most wounds, that day was just the first of many more to come. Nothing was heard in the corridors; the house of rectitude and discipline was filled with mourning from dawn to dusk, more colourless than it usually was.


Yura walked like a silent ghost, unheard and unseen. Her expression serious, her eyes lost in front of her. Her goal was clear; just another step in the wheel that had started moving too long ago, even before that Xaelan warrior found himself under their roof. He'd been respectful with her father that morning, more than he was when the patriarch was alive. The warrior didn't leave his room, didn't raise his voice, didn't increase anyone's weight with his unwelcome presence. But he hadn't been forgotten, of course not. Never forgotten.


The door to the room he'd been occupying slid quietly. Yura emerged as the one who'd opened it and took a single step into the room, looking at him with a serious albeit calm gaze. Her voice was, once more, soft and discreet, barely raising more than just what it needed to be heard above the cicadas.


“As you might know already, the patriarch of the Hagane family is dead,” she notified with rather impersonal words. “Have you, then, decided on your future, Xaelan warrior?”[/align]

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The third morning in the Hagane household brought with it a canvas of grey together alongside it's sickly, pale light. On the third day, much of the Xaelan's strength had at last returned to him - far more than what could have been said of his pride, however.


Resting quietly in a seated position near the centre of the room which had become his home for the past few days, Nhogai's gaze absently reached out through the small window space on the wall before him, unwittingly having placed himself in a state of meditation for the greater part of the morning. Today he had kept the company of a realm that had been thrown into a pit of grief and despair all around him, a concept almost as unfamiliar as all else he had encountered in this place, though one that was still oddly reminiscent of home. The new world had been of stark contrast to it's prideful predecessor, where now it remained domineered by silence with only the occasional weak murmur passing secrets from different corners of the household, creeping almost as though in fear of being detected - all except for that of one presence at least, when that silence was finally, albeit meekly challenged by the discreet intrusion of a familiar voice. The warrior wasted no time offering the small creature his entire focus, jaded though it had become now that hostilities and suspicions both had sealed themselves at a shallow depth beneath his recovering flesh. His heavy gaze rested upon her petite form unrestrained, remaining there for only a short time before offering his answer; a moment to consider the curiosity of today's introduction perhaps somewhat apparent.


"Our futures are decided by our actions, not ourselves" he spoke bluntly in response to the fallen leader's daughter, "Yura". Calm though his voice was, it never lacked that particular edge; one that would never let the girl forget that he was nothing short of a seasoned hunter. Her perceived apathy, an oddity among her kin, would go relatively unnoticed by Nhogai. That was what was to be expected after all. For a blessing, she at least possessed a fortitude the other residents appeared to lack, though it would do little to impress the male. Night and day were the worlds from which each of them had come.


"Three days I was given, and so I've taken" the man continued after a brief pause, disrupting the relatively, silent ambience that had wrapped itself around voices that had lowered for any reason but consideration as he forced himself to his feet, quickly dominating the quaint room space with his towering height.


"I'm going"


His simple, intended message of departure.


Without awaiting any form of response from his saviour, the warrior steadily made his way in the daughter's direction, his eyes focused squarely upon the doorway that lay beyond.

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[align=justify]His guest, his prey was standing up in defiance now, believing still that he was the owner of his own life. Yura did not move, nor did her expression change visibly; the narrowing of her eyes was, in fact, so light and brief that it might have passed as not being there, like the rest of her emotions. A stoic antique doll; that's what she was.


Just two steps could be taken by the warrior before the female Raen ventured to speak again. There was an edge in her tone now, in her eyes as they stared at him without fear. A slight brush of… What was it? Urgency, defiance? Nothing that made her abandon her calm demeanour, however.


“Do you believe in fate, nameless warrior?”


Ah, a question he'd heard before, though the circumstances surrounding it had changed. The patriarch's death called for that question to be asked again, if anything as a reminder. And so she waited for an answer, not moving from her spot at the room's entrance.[/align]

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("This again..."), the Xaelan's begrudging thoughts, ones which were not concealed well behind the irritated glare that had greeted the Raen's gaze in response.


She was certainly a bold one. Those who knew of Nhogai of course knew better than to challenge him - while those who didn't were already dead. He eyed his subject closely, as fire and ice battled fearlessly back against the darkness that sought to oppress them. She had some nerve. Irritatingly so. Not only for the fact she were a mere Raen, but a female too? And a self-proclaimed, docile one at that. The audacity of it all was damn near enough to make the warrior grit his teeth, teetering on the limits of his restraint as nature would demand him to strip her of that unwarranted ego of hers. Her attitude was far too welcoming of her own demise. It quickly made sense as to how the great leader of their humble little family had so easily met his end - perhaps less so how it had not happened sooner.


Still, her words carried a faint power behind them; one that would slowly sedate the male away from those feelings of aggression with barely enough effect to keep him from barking at her - this time around at least.


"...maybe once I did" he replied with an unlikely honesty; a bitterness tainting the very manner in which he spoke as he turned his eyes away from the female, grossly offended by the thought of sharing unnecessary words with her kind it would seem. 


Only a second or two passed before a thought occurred to him then. A single, unenthusiastic hand reached back toward where his clothing had bound securely against his waist. Procuring then a small object between his fingertips, the man slipped free a small card of foreign origin which he had earlier discovered concealed beneath the pillow he had been resting upon these past nights. Drawing it forward, he offered it only one last, brief inspection before presenting it then before Unzan's daughter.


"Your doing I take it?"

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[align=justify]That aggressiveness and stubbornness, that narrow mind; all of them expected qualities from a tribal Xaelan warrior. Fate sure was capricious, but Yura wasn't one to question it. Even if she might not fully know what she's seen, she was still well aware that the Xaelan held a part of her future deep inside, strange as that thought could sound at such a moment. Indeed, it would be inappropriate to say that Yura enjoyed, borderline tolerated his presence, but this wouldn't show in her always calm countenance as she stood in front of him, watching how he withdrew the card she'd left for him.


“The Bole,” she replied. “In that position, it represents protection, life and nurturing.”


Ah, fate was capricious, yes-- almost as much as sentient creatures were.


“I told you that you would save my life someday. Just like I did tell you that, on the third day, Father would not oppose to your presence. Thus I ask, what is it that you believe now, nameless warrior?”[/align]

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Half-hearted though it was, something akin to the beginnings of a laugh rumbled as a breath out from the depths of his throat then, entertained as he suddenly found himself when the Raen would only proceed with quizzing her little pet-in-passing. How comedic, he thought. Whatever the girl's game was, she sure felt she did a mighty fine job of sounding convincing in her logic. Anger, in part, melted away into amusement then as the larger of the two squared up to his shorter counterpart, offering her a little more promise this time as to the extent of his interests.


"Your persistence is annoying" he commented bluntly, his expression firm with distaste, though shying further away from it's natural vehemence until a subtle interest came to match the tone of what he was to say next.


"...but curious. I wonder what you are willing to sacrifice in the name of your beliefs".


The male's eyes briefly flicked back to the card still gripped between his fingertips before lightly releasing it disrespectfully in the Raen's direction.


"Maybe you already have".

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[align=justify]For a moment, ever so lightly and almost unnoticeably, Yura's lips seemed to part. Something had crossed her mind like an arrow; something akin doubt had crawled its way to such a sacred temple. What was it she saw the other night? Why did she? With the Xaelan's latest gesture of disdain, the card had fallen right by her feet. Her eyes would then travel down towards it, only to meet with a reversed Bole.




It was hard to believe she'd been mistaken. As hard as it was now to believe that she'd been right.


“Beliefs...” the Raen echoed, narrowing her eyes slightly towards the card. She crouched down right after to pick it up carefully. “Only the insane would make any sacrifice in their name.”


When she stood up, her gaze was just as soft and hollow as it usually looked. She'd heard enough, said enough. Sacrifices had to be made, indeed, but her pride would not be among them. There actually was no need, for a marked lamb would never be free again.


“My servants shall return with your weapons,” she added then, turning her back to calmly take her leave. “May your fate smile upon you in the remaining of your life, nameless warrior.”[/align]

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Her response was anything but what he had expected. It had been submissive and defeated, but for reasons that would only remain unseen by the Xaelan. Even as she turned away, the woman would remain the focus of his attention - their little game, to the male's imperceivable lament, seemed to have ended prematurely.


"Ho~.... you almost had me convinced of your convictions for a moment" Nhogai called after the fleeting female in a tone that sounded an unusual mix between mock and genuine disappointment.


"Perhaps you should ask yourself what it is that 'you' believe in, Raen. Were it truly fate then you would not have turned your back on me so readily... nor would you fear something as simple as a test of faith" he chided in a sedated taunt, continuing to seat his eyes upon her in a steady focus despite her perceivably, boring response.


"If fate were truly so fickle, then what worth could it possibly have?"

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[align=justify]She'd barely been able to take a single step when the sound of the male's voice stopped her. His tone was akin to mockery, his words filled with even more disdain, but his actions… his actions seemed to speak of different intentions this time. To Yura, he was asking for something to believe in. Asking for a reason to stay. To her, he wanted to understand the world upside down, for that was the only kind of world that awaited him from now on. Homeless, nameless, lifeless Xaelan warrior.


Slowly, the Raen turned her head to look at him sideways with a serious gaze, perhaps more sharp, less softened than before. Her tone, however, remained calm.


“Fate...” she said. “Make no mistake, nameless warrior. Fate is indeed fickle, fragile and easily manipulated. I would not persuade you into believeing in such an ever changing force.”


She looked at her card, eyelids half closed as she got lost into the image reflected on it.


“I said that my father should not oppose to your presence on the third day. On the third day, he lost his life. Perhaps it was Fate being fulfilled, or perhaps it was my own hand making sure that the outcome would be as I predicted. Whichever it was, I spoke of a future that would happen, and it did.”


Raising her gaze, Yura turned to completely face him, with eyes that for a moment seemed to gleam with severe conviction. She would say it once and once only, and as much was clear in her tone. This was how Fate was fulfilled or broken; exactly like this.


“It is not Fate what you should believe in, nameless warrior, but me.”[/align]

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Fickle, she admits. Fragile, she claims. Easily manipulated...


What was the meaning of this 'Fate' that Unzan's daughter had come to accept? Where the Xaelan came from, Fate was something set in stone; immovable, unchanging, predetermined. There could be no other. What meaning could be placed in such an empty concept when a mere change of the wind foreshadows failure and despair for a man to whom had been prophesied all? Disgruntled thoughts. Nhogai's visage soon returned to it's familiar, stony appearance once more. No longer were the placid woman's words entertaining, no longer was the tease of murder interesting. All that would remain on the forefront of the Xaelan's mind was the sharpness of her sincerity, each word as precise and meticulous as an arrow intended to puncture, not kill. "Insane" she described the concept of sacrifice, yet here she stood adamant upon an insane ideology. 'Absurd' indeed was how he would continue to revere her convictions, though in the end, his curiosity would be seduced by the succubus's limitless stare... and the uncompromising tone upon which her call was carried.


No doubt the change in mood has been noticed by the perceptive Raen at that point. Her target has been marked and the arrows loosed.


A dark, almost displeased stare would treat the woman for a brief time before Nhogai then turned away from her. Silence accompanied him on his brief journey toward the centre of the room where his bedding offered scant decoration to the modest floorspace. A brief nudge of his foot saw the fabrics flung aside, revealing a section of loose flooring that appeared to have previously had a little encouragement from it's resident. A number of faint 'thunks' would echo coyly within the relative stillness of the room as displaced wood was lightly stacked upon the adjacent, solid flooring. It wouldn't take long before the purpose of the Xaelan's actions were made clear.


Reaching down into the space created by the displaced floorboards, Nhogai's hand soon withdrew back into view once more - a large weapon with an appearance familiar to Yura now contained within it's grasp.


"....Unzan would never have let me walk out here alive, not without something in return" he at last gave voice to closed-minded thoughts while slowly rising back to his feet, dark eyes closely trained upon the large weapon contained solely within the strength of a single hand.


"I couldn't care less really, but at the very least I would make sure to die with weapon in hand" he continued while effortlessly extending the blade out before him, occasionally adjusting the angle as he absent-mindedly inspected the quality of the blade against the light before his glare would eventually fall back upon the fragile form of the female before him.


"That is how the Xaela speak. Through action... with strength".


A sudden hiss of air whipped against their eardrums as Nhogai threw a downward slash across his frontside and, with an unlikely speed, brought the massive blade to an abrupt rest out by his right side - all with what seemed to be a mere flick of the wrist.


"You want me to to believe in you, Raen? Then earn my belief" he spoke firmly, his gaze piercing deep into his quarry.


"Maybe then I'll permit you my name".


His footing adjusted slowly while his body squared up to the target before him, everything about even his most subtle of movements was treated with an uncanny sense of ease... nothing was shielding him from the appearance that he were ready to charge right for the woman at any given moment, nor that he bore any real will to hesitate.


"Your reflexes are slow and your body weak. A mere guess is your only hope of evading my attack" he explained, lightly swaying the large weapon to emphasise the absence of room for error on her part.


"But if you trust in the fate you saw in store for yourself, you already know you can choose no wrong".


Nhogai peered deep into the female's eyes then; curious... anticipating of her response though wholly uncertain of just how far she were willing to take her beliefs.

"Do you accept?"

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For a moment, just for mere seconds, Yura's lips seemed to part ever so slightly again. Initially, the warrior's game sounded like an unreasonable one in many senses, even for himself, but Yura's trail of hidden thoughts didn't seem to linger much before reaching a final conclusion, subtly embodied in the way her soft gaze steeled itself again. Her eyes stared at the monster in front of her, revealing nothing. She didn't move.


“Do what you must, nameless warrior.”


One of her hands at either side was still holding the reversed Bole, a warning she'd been given the choice to follow or ignore...

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The Raen woman was indeed full of surprises, this case in particular proving to be the most impressive. That she were willing to stare death in the face was a testament to her beliefs... and to even trust this vicious stranger to raise arms against her. Were they one in the same thing? Perhaps, perhaps not. Though either way, the gesture alone would never be enough to sate the Xaelan's appetite. A show of faith was non-negotiable.


His frozen, obsidian stare bore down upon the frail target that stood but a distance away from him, her back facing the wall by the doorway, and her focus aimed with intent upon he who demanded the unreasonable. No words of praise nor mockery would run to greet her icy, cool acceptance - nor so much as a nod of acknowledgement. Seldom had the male spared Yura from his vicious personality, unknown to her perhaps was a nature that took any other form when it came to the man she had saved, though he was serious now; ferocious was his visage and threatening his demeanour, but at the very least, the girl had earned anything but his spite in this moment.


Faint. The light thumps underfoot as the warrior slowly withdrew a few paces to permit himself more room to charge forth - his gaze channelled just as intently upon the Raen as hers was upon him. Drawing to an eventual halt, eyes still focused upon she who would remain absolute in her motives - not wavering so much as an inch as she awaited her trial of judgement. Her composure was forged of steel, her presence seemingly melting into the eerie silence that had fallen upon the room in those moments. His stance shifted steadily, legs forming a wide and solid base while his other hand drew slowly across to meet with it's counterpart on the haft of the massive blade. His form shrunk closer to the floor, his loss of height doing nothing to relieve him of that intimidating dominance that ever persisted so long as he was present. But a second would pass and the blade clinked weakly in warning, his grip firm and readied - the last opportunity for the woman to back down.... though her voice would not come.




Thunder greeted their ears as the flooring cried aloud in protest. Solid steel lashed through the air in search of a crimson scenery.... and just as quickly as it all began, it was over.





The outcome was not to be feared, he had told himself. It would be just a much a test of himself as it would her. Her words, regardless of the insanity from which they were born, were an olive branch extended to he, a crippled, shadow of his former self. If she died, then as would that queer curiosity that had been stirred up deep beneath his scarred pride - the inevitable retribution enacted upon him by her kin would only be befitting for all that was left of him.

It didn't matter. In the end, no amount of Dotharl blood could redeem what is.


And if she lived? ....an incomplete thought that mere notion had remained - even after he had already begun his charge. Too inconceivable to so much as consider; far too hopeful for someone with a background painted in blood. A contradiction, but he would not be deterred from his course.


No matter what, he could not hesitate. He wouldn't.





So why?




...Why did his blade not follow through?




The Raen had not moved so much as an inch. By all accounts she should be dead. She failed to save herself.

She failed to predict where the blade would strike, and yet....





.....and yet she still breathes.





Heavy, exerted breathing decorated the surface of his blade with a thin, film of mist as it hung, locked in position mere ilms between he and his target; it's unforgiving edge not nearly as sharp as the eyes that peered out over it.

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[align=justify]It was like blinking in an endless second. The warrior brandished his enormous weapon with unrivalled speed, a true demon capable of reaping someone else's life in the matter of a single, unfinished thought. Unable to close her eyes, Yura witnessed the fierceness in that murderous gaze, in the expression of one who lived for and through war. The expression of one who lived. And oh, contradictory irony, for in the eternity of that moment, all she saw in front of her was death. Pure, unrelenting death.


And then it was over, and then it was not. She still lived, so did he. The warrior was panting, alight, troubled in eyes and arms by the invisible hands that had stopped his final blow; perhaps also consumed by the desire to taste his prey's untouched blood. The Raen was standing still, eyes frozen on him, heart secure inside her chest. Only the Xaelan's heavy breathing could be heard for what felt like a long moment, until Yura's lips finally parted.


“This was not a test to measure my faith in Fate…” she spoke calmly, always soft like the gentle cicadas after the storm.

“What you were measuring was my faith in you.”[/align]

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  • 2 weeks later...

His reflexes were slower this time. Much slower. Her words were as sharpened steel to his throat, catching him even further off-guard and throwing his thoughts into disarray. Though soon enough he would recover, returning to that same bitter fury... the burning coals alight in the furnace and resembling that of the very same from which their first meeting had been forged. The girl would suddenly feel her feather-like weight being lifted slowly upward then with ungentle care, his strength clearly reserved, though just enough to force her upon to the balls of her feet. With the neckline of her shirt scrunched beneath the strength of the Xaelan's large, clenched fist, her face was brought much closer towards his now, his towering form - in part - compensating for their significant difference in height as he hunched over her menacingly, erasing all around them until nothing remained in either of their worlds but the other.


"Who ARE you, Raen?"

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  • 1 month later...

[align=justify]There it was again, that sheer force that placed her on the brink of an even more premature death. Nothing could ever soothe the rage in the Xaela’s heart; no words, no actions. Again and again he would disrespect those who had tended their hands, first with his words, then with his own fists. The inverted Bole was now on the floor, witnessing the results of its warning earlier than what Yura had anticipated. Curiosity kills, they say; perhaps she’s been far too curious.


Her eyes had opened wide, truly taken aback and paralyzed by the situation, for this was the very first time in her life that someone, anyone, had used their strength against her. Her father’s death felt heavier than before upon the realization of how unprotected she was, and all she could do was part lips to settle the Xaela’s question with a breathy answer. One that, perhaps, could have been the truth under the right circumstances.


“…Not your enemy…” she managed to say, unable to move, to even struggle to free herself from her captor. She simply did nothing; weak, weak Raen in the hands of fate.[/align]

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Surprisingly even to himself, the Xaelan's reaction was rather subdued. Alike to that of a wounded animal - even when it comes to the hand that feeds it - his every action up until now had been ferocious and on edge, mistrustful and full of doubts. Though with the correct approach, even the most feral animal could be tamed - and so too had his spirit been pacified for now.... all as a result of the words coming from that of a soft-spoken Raen.


Sighing heavily, the man resolved to carefully release his grip upon the woman's clothing, easing her back down to her feet with an unlikely tenderness which he had not afforded her up until now. Tossing his gaze in the direction of the floor, his vision drew dark as he retreated to the solitude of thought. Prophesies aside, it was undeniable that she had left quite the impression on the male. Raen or no, that a fragile creature of such tender build and stature could so willingly stand against his brutish methods time and time again without so much as flinching from her resolve was a matter deserving of no small amount of respect. It was certainly an accomplishment that many a foe and ally alike of whom actually possessed the means and strength to defend themselves would not dare seek to challenge against one with as fearsome a reputation as he.

...He was being difficult, he knew, but what reason had he to believe he owed anyone anything anymore? It was a thought that was gradually becoming ever more difficult to justify when in the presence of someone with such outstanding mental fortitude.



"....Nhogai" he breathed, reawakening from that same maelstrom of thought and uncertainty that had sought to drag him down into the abyss ever since awakening in this strange room.


"It's Nhogai" he added while slowing bringing his gaze away from the spot on the floor it had locked upon until it was set firmly upon the girl before once more. The briars that had ensnared his every word had been cut, making way for a more receptive tone - albeit one that sounded dangerously similar to that of defeat.


"If not an enemy, then how am I to see you?"


Perhaps it was. Though at least this time, it wasn't accompanied by that same sense of soul-crushing shame that had imprisoned him, the very one he had so vainly toiled against from the moment he had accepted that he and he alone was responsible for slaying his comrades.

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[align=justify]Now free of the hands of her captor, the lady Raen could breathe again. She inhaled and exhaled softly, almost soundlessly, and managed to stand when her knees seemed to want to break. The Xaela, perhaps bitten by the smallest pangs of guilt, finally revealed his name. It was the first submissive gesture he’d displayed, the only one; the first, yes, and maybe the very last as well. At that moment, Yura’s eyes became colder, darker. This was her house, and he was still the unpleasant guest who had dared to spit on her family’s hospitality, the Xaela who had dared to lay a hand on her. Never again would she endure the danger he posed.


“Nhogai the warrior, you shall see me as the only hand guiding your fate from now on,” she stated coldly, her tone categorical and sharp, albeit her composure was perfectly in control. “Or you shall be forever vanished from this house.”


Her eyes were defiant on his, no matter how much physically weaker she was. If he dared to compromise her integrity again, her servants would do the rest. Dogs like him weren't cut for kindness.[/align]

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The Raen's icy ultimatum was bold... and dangerous. Those fearless words of hers could have been regarded in any manner of ways. Arrogant. Ignorant. Naive. Pride could have interfered and seen the Xaelan shut her down once more, challenge her, threaten her.... kill her? He was certainly not above it - or at least, his former self wasn't. How curious indeed that he would instead revere with a manner of respect that which bore a strong resemblance to that of a threat against his very person. He, Nhogai Tumet.


"Respect".... the word felt somehow unfitting, misplaced. Though whatever the truth of the matter, it was a feeling not estranged far from the very same... and he was no fool. Such like an unwelcome parasite, that the unfortunate reality that desperation may have in fact corrupted his prideful soul in any degree at all did not go unacknowledged. Perhaps it was through his refutal of a blissful ignorance that he now found himself somehow humbled - even before the delicate form of a harmless Raen; she, nothing more than a vulnerable wild flower, adamantly standing against the gale.


Nhogai's gaze had not lifted from her since. Nor had they betrayed any hint of that same unnatural rage... that stirring sorrow... or even that uncanny sense of loss. Like a turbulent concoction bubbling and frothing away within the cauldron with their every, added input, their meeting had culminated into a strange sense of placidity - her words the final ingredient that had instilled just the right balance for all that had come before it to reach it's unlikely conclusion.


Slowly, and with a fluid-like movement that would do little to disrupt the strange atmosphere that had fallen down upon their shoulders, Nhogai would procure a small blade from his person. Another tool he had recovered, though one unfitting for a man of his stature to be seen as a suitable weapon. Without breathing so much as a word, the dull steel was drawn forth, it's blade soon meeting with the exposed flesh of his left palm; taking but a second to settle it's modest shape neatly into place, the knife length was then swiftly stolen away once more - a tightly clenched fist serving to prevent a whip-like trail of crimson from trailing through the air. The Xaelan was silent in his pain, practically numbed to it's very meaning through experience alone, though it was nonetheless a gesture of penance - a tribute to she who had drawn offence from his actions and sharp tongue.


He would not expect her to understand, though neither would he so grossly underestimate the woman ever again.



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