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  1. #9886
    i blow u kis Yun Lao's Avatar
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    The Brickhouse diner in Brick City was one of the city's oldest establishments and was said to be the first restaurant built on these lands. This factoid wasn't anything Charco had learned, but rather it was hard not to know considering it was written on the walls amidst the colorful murals painted by various artists throughout the years. Despite the outer appearance of the diner reflecting the conservative values of the city, the Brickhouse diner had always been more for the artsy types and while he probably couldn't paint a fence to save his life, he appreciated the atmosphere it gave. It didn't remind him of the troubles the city had given him throughout the years.

    To be fair, things were improving, although in extremely minute ways. Roughly three and half months since Fife's defeat, his parents had called him, asking to meet him and while the meeting was still tense, they appeared to have made some leeway for the next time they met. He was still disappointed that the real reason they called him over was that he had received some mail from a strange figure. They never told him what was so strange about the messenger, but it was enough for them to be visibly spooked.
    The music playing from the jukebox changed to a different genre, the first song featuring the tired voice of a weathered man singing a dark ballad. Although it wasn't something he generally listened to, his communicator was on life support, plugged into a nearby outlet. Charco figured it was time for him to finally look at the piece of mail he had ultimately come into town for. The envelope it came in was dirty and grimy as if it had been dropped in the mud, dirt, and sand constantly before being wiped "clean". It tore upon the slightest touch, revealing a book bound in dark, rough leather. Opening it confirmed his suspicions; it was written by Jorg Fourmen. Unlike the other books, notes, and tomes authored by the man, this one was completely different. It wasn't about techniques or philosophies, but rather it was a simple journal that he had started fairly recently, but had managed to accumulate enough material that it completely filled the book.

    They told me Gris Gris Bayou was an evil place, devoid of nothing but blood and sin. I was skeptical at first, but now I find my sentiments towards these vile lands mirrors what was I told. My instincts tell me to run and never look back, but I know I cannot leave this be. This place must be cleansed and the monsters that dwell within must be put down. Only then can those lost here truly find peace...
    The door opened, setting off the whimsical wind chimes that lined the threshold with the jingle of metal and glass. The newcomers spoke and laughed loudly and much to Charco's displeasure, he recognized the voices. Unfortunately, they also recognized him.

    "Well, well, well..." Declared one of them, whom he knew as the loudmouth Limon. They had had some confrontations before, yet it seemed that Limon had never learned his lesson, as demonstrated as he slid into the booth seat across from Charco, "If it isn't our old friend, Charco. Where ya been, buddy? We haven't seen you at school and word on the street was that you finally got arrested." That annoying, shit-eating grin crossed Limon's face.

    "Hey man, you sure you wanna do this?" Came the cautious words of Limon's friend, Tajin, who stood a respectable distance from the booth with his girlfriend, Chile. Both had seen the results before, yet there was little they could do to keep their friend from doing what he was doing; it was like he was a moth who kept approaching the flame.

    "Oh... I get it. He was featured at the World Tournament, oh what a badass," Limon said, mockingly acting as if he were shaking in fear, "Oh please! Am I supposed to be afraid of some dropout who can't even read? Heh, seems like the only thing he's good for is being the bodyguard for that slut Hibachi--?!" His words were silenced as Charco seized him by his chin. Standing up, he forced the other one up to his feet before effortlessly lifting him off the floor.

    "You never learn..." Charco said, doing his best to keep himself under control. Limon knew better than to bring up Hibachi, but the punk couldn't help but try and get a rise from him. "Whoa! Calm down, you know Limon likes to talk shit, but he doesn't mean to!" Tajin said, going into damage control mode. Charco glanced back to him before looking back to his captive, "You know, I've been holding back against you for a long, long time. Today, I'm gonna correct this." Tightening his grip, he could feel Limon's lower jaw reach the breaking point before it collapsed under the force, prompting a muffled scream and trickles of blood seeping down his hand from between his fingers. Dropping him, Charco turned to Tajin and Chile, both of which could only look on in horror at their friend's ruined mouth. Collecting his things, he stepped outside as the staff within quickly called for emergency services.

    "Shit..." Charco muttered to himself. He didn't want to stir any more trouble, but he had ended up losing his temper and no doubt the police were going to become involved in this soon enough. Glancing to Jorg's journal, he sighed, "Well, looks like I'm headed to this Gris Gris Bayou..." Climbing onto his motorcycle, he sped off toward the highway.

    ----

    Meanwhile, many miles away, there was a land in which the sun could not shine upon. Obscured by the tangled treetops, the murky waters of the swamp were pitch black, save for the lights that were reflected off of its surface by a transversing pontoon boat. Dirty lanterns were held by hood figures wearing makeshift robes of burlap and rope with symbols crudely stitched across every available surface. Coming to a stop, one of the figures crouched down toward the center of the boat, where a child, barely a pre-teen, lay bound and gagged.

    "We give praise... and offer upon you our sacrifice..." The figure, a man said, his voice raspy and nasally and he hoisted the child up into the air. "May the blood of this child quell your anger for another night so perhaps we may earn your forgiveness..." Tossing the child into the dark waters, muffled cries and splashing filled the air as the victim thrashed against the water, yet it would soon be over as something seized their sacrifice, dragging the child beneath the dark depths of the swamp.

    DRAGONBALL M, Special Chapter
    Dead Depths
    Last edited by Yun Lao; 06-01-2018 at 11:18 PM.

  2. #9887

    Default Trial of the Tortoise - Part 2/?

    Quote Originally Posted by grampagen View Post
    “Th'outside world musta continue'd to dissapoint yeh if y'come up here t'steep s'more, Ocha. I could use th'company!”

    Ochazuke cast his gaze around the muted light of the shadowless cave. A cool, dark place, rows of moon-white mushrooms blanketed the wet garden inlaid on the rock wall. He twist one off, and its sick-sweet rotten scent crept over his palate when he inhaled.

    “Thirsting only for knowledge, sensei,” he said, sinking his teeth into the moist flesh of the fungus and savouring its acrid, musky flavour. The old hermit had sworn this was the secret of his long life.

    Kuki retched, grumbling as he sidled off the stalicite and swung toward the cave wall, the hollow thump spreading to an echoing boom that disturbed a host of somethings that whispered and shrieked in the deeper shadows of the cave. Suspended sideways on his planted, bare feet, he slid down the sheer surface of the cave wall and the old hermit landed on the floor, this time with scarcely a noise. His right hand – his only hand - centred over his chest and his body tensed on bent knees. The force from the fall sunk silently through the cave as the whole chamber shook and the mushrooms swayed.

    “Is'sa shame, feh. Well what c'n I do f'yeh?”
    As soon as he spoke, without so much as a further whisper Kuki resumed the course of his training in the muted light of the cave. Wisps of coarse hair shift atop his shaded crown as he shift in his rooted stance, a beardless countenance fell to skin like corked bark, hanging aged and loose, betraying twisting piles of muscle within his limbs. Ochazuke was silent as he observed the shift the hermit's stony frame, dumbstruck for the moment as he observed him move.

    A perfect balance, he thought, watching Kuki shift his single arm across his chest, sink low with a soft footfall which shook the wet garden that grew upon the walls. Where language was softly forgotten in Kuki's isolation, his conversation through his motion conveyed a thousand qualities words would fail. As far as he had journeyed before returning to this point, there still remained a mysterious end to the hermit's structure conveyed through his gradual aloof pace. Not a movement taken for granted under total control.

    Ochazuke expanded the contents of his capsule and presented something the old hermit had not seen for perhaps thirty years, enough to arrest his movements completely.

    “...iss'at a plastic bag?”

    “Canvas. I thought I'd bring you some real food from the outside.”

    The wild man wound down, shuffling silently toward Ochazuke. Reared to his full height Kuki would scarcely reach his chest. Ambling low in his examination, Ochazuke sat upon his knees as he shift his hand through the contents of the bag. Cabbage. Ginger. Tofu. A small pot and two bowls.

    “I got n'use f'that, ech!” The hermit cried. “Whassat smell?”

    “Negi. Mirin. Miso.” Ochazuke replied.“It's not a luxury to eat proper, Sensei.”

    “Don't sass me! A man'll be entitled only to th' produce of his labourin'! Oughta eat only what he put in th'time for! S'no time for luxury when every moment's a refinement of skill!”

    Ochazuke blinked hard, a low sigh escaping him. Perhaps the produce of Zaofan's kitchen had spoiled his palate, and what meagre lesson he'd imparted by observing his brother would be lost on a man devoted only to the pursuit of himself in a singular vision.

    “Thats th'martial way! In everythin' y'do, draw y'hand up and raise y'self by it!”

    A low chuckle escaped Ochazuke as he wordlessly dared to pluck another mushroom. Kuki's sunken mouth became unhinged.

    “That's hardly the only pursuit that has value, sensei,” he replied as he made his preparations, “Yet there is the deeper matter I'd come here to discuss with you.”

    Ochazuke passed the five training manuals and the last testament of Zxu'ro, still held in their casements, to Kuki. The old Turtle Hermit held the top of the ancient scroll, as he tilt his head and pored over the matter.

    “Mmmrgh...s'intrestin', never seen anythin' like this,” he murmured.

    “What do you make of it?”

    The Five Animals were offshoots from the same source. Cloistered in the hidden ruin, a man had built a testament to himself as the Master of Masters. Kuki's eyes were squint, dark pools as he read over the matter.

    “...after all this time” Kuki started, before lowering the scroll with a snort, “...y'can't figure out a man can't read in th'dark, Ocha?”

    A small chuckle escaped Ochazuke. In his zealous pursuit for answers he'd tripped up over so small a thing. Where the artifacts did nor suffice, his words would have to do, and so he spoke of Balon's discovery there in the hidden Temple of the Chimera.

    “...s'a matter to discuss over dinner, but if y'gonna cook, y'need some tinder, n'I need somethin' I can keep down.”

    By the time the two had wandered out of the passages, the short northern day had ended. Ochazuke had forgotten was Kuki's custom that when the day ended that he would venture outside the meagre comforts of his cave to tend to his gardens. Without saying so much as a word, the old Turtle had maneuvered him into place. Under the cover of darkness there's be even fewer prying eyes in the wilderness. By the glimmer of the stars above and the shifting aurora, Kuki, clad only in the stained saffron of his dishevelled robe ambled his way silently on bare feet across the floodplain of melted snow along the cracks of the earth outside his lair. Plucking shoots out of the ground and brusquely tossing them to Ochazuke as he followed, after some time, he continued to press the matter.

    “The legacy of the master passes to you as well as it does to me, but the truth, there, it has always been hidden, like a secret shame,” he said, the north's produce gathered in a bag in one hand, kindling in the other. “You know this, and you opened my eyes to this truth as well when you taught me.”

    Kuki parsed the sickly matter through a gutteral sound from his throat. “S'a fickle thing. We all got four limbs same's anyone else. A man c'n think he's a bird, or a turtle, or a dragon, s'still a man.”

    “For two-thousand years people have been staking their lives on honours based on lies. Now that I have the truth, the feud can end.”

    A small smirk stretched across Kuki's face, exposing a gap-toothed grin. “People're stubborn, and s'got little t'do with martial arts, I'd say,” came the Hermit's reply. “M'days of th'Turtle r'mostly spent fightin' t'keep people offa m'back. Then fightin' t'keep people content to b'stayn' where they are.”

    “But if we have the insight of the true master-”

    “Masters! A master'll pull y'up n'teach ya! S'not supposed to be a matter of castin' a shadow behind ye so's t'leave a shady spot t'be pushed from behind. Burden y'self t'keep everyone else cushy, feh!”

    Kuki knelt by a shrub balancing precariously between the frost and a steaming crack over the hearth within the earth, plucking its emaciated fruits carefully, one-by-one.

    “Y'seen it too, have ye? As long as someone's at th'top pressin' down, it changes nothin'. Y'change hands, yeh, but it keeps things as th'stagnant way they are.”

  3. #9888

    Default Trial of the Tortoise - Part 3/?

    The echo of providence was as ever an irritating mote twisting in Ochazuke's thoughts. The savage natural order of things in this universe was such that force became the only justice, truth writ in spilled blood. In the days gone by since the fallen Guardian emerged, Ochazuke had seen this course converge into a mass that threatened to dye the oceans of this world a quickened red, but for their group's timely intervention.

    Rautt. Battersea. Evangeline. And then there's the Parasite.

    The world turned under the darkness, countless threatening eyes blinked behind the shifting light suspended above the snows. Here in under the black silhouette of the frozen summit, the shadow of the Obushi-sennin cast itself upon Ochazuke's path as he stepped forth into the darkness, chasing a mad hope. He examined Kuki's response, found and was wordless.

    “S'a struggle f'the sake of no point, nothin' at all. So I sloughed it off'n came here.”

    He'd come north to seek Kuki's counsel, within it he found only an echo of another life he left behind.

    Aiko. Chahan.

    He stopped in his pace, tinder scrap and dripping fronds in his hand as he watched the hermit crawl upon the ground picking dull red motes out of the crab grass with his single hand.

    “Conduct more befitting a Snake than a Turtle.”

    Kuki's shoulders sloped, rolling with hissing laughter as he stood to his feet. “S'nonsense t'bear a weight y'can't take with yeh. It'll crush yeh, kid.”

    Straw and kindling snapped where Ochazuke gripped it.

    Kenshiko.

    “I suppose even for an aesceic a life of dedication is worth nothing, then?”

    “S'cuse you? I consider m'self a thinkin' man, thank'ye.”

    “We've chosen the apostate's life, for better or for worse, Sensei. The doctrines have broken apart what should be whole. As the days pass, more is lost.”

    “Pity, but'sa way of things. S'got nothin' t'do with us, let it go.”

    “Then what good will come from cultivating your skill in isolation?”

    “F'what, power?” Kuki cast his single hand before him, even the mildest gesture carried with it the shadow of menace. “The warrior's hand c'n only push, grab, 'r pull. Pushn' others outta th'way'll only make'm seek a way 'round yeh. T'hold on'ta someone else between you n' y'troubles, y'squeeze th'life outta'm. Pull'n em towards ya, s'only as good as you cn' keep 'm there. N'on an'on it goes.”

    “Maybe, but nothing will change from idle knowledge, and then in the end it will ultimately be lost,” he said, “You may be contented to stand aside, but I can't do that while there remains a great many things to do.”

    The night Ochazuke pulled himself from succumbing to death's shadow by burning away the time left to him to survive the moment, after he held quiet vigil over Kaibyo he began his penitant march. He'd survived there in the nadir, fallen and weakened. A dead man drifting without purpose, he'd walked north until there was nowhere further to go. There in the shadow of the Frozen Fall did he cast his gaze upward at the unassailable summit, and finding no answers, that was day he was set ready to die.

    Then Kuki had reached down to pull him up. He'd never understood why, it simply seemed that it was lonely at the peak. Now in the face of change, the hermit's motives, immovable, were ever more a mystery to him.

    Every day since then, the welling pain in scar over his heart reminded him of what was left to him. Forever ago it seemed to sever him from his potential.

    Stoked by the will and intent of others until he was brought back, there was a debt Ochazuke had to pay still for all those that came before him, including this recluse.

    “I'd come here to sever what little kept me suspended over the abyss. But you reached down and pulled me back up.”

    Kuki placed the fruits of his frozen garden in a satchel bandied about his tatters. “S'pose I did. What about it?"

    “There will be nothing to cease the world of turmoil, to stop this if men who are able to impart change do nothing.”

    The Hermit stood at his full height and walked toward him. Reeling his gaze upwards, a glint withing the dark pools of his eyes illuminated a spark of vitriol within. Kuki snatched the fronds from Ochazuke's hand.

    “Oh, s'you gonna fight m'off, n'prove yeh better'n them by shovin' em outta th'way?”

    With a great leap Kuki bound back towards the mouth of his hermitage. Ochazuke kept pace of his evasion flying in tandem with him.

    “I've allowed enough to fall away into shadow and memory. Surrendered to chaos that which should have remained. The insights I've gained from my meditations have shown me that much.”

    “Boy, I taught you meditation,” Kuki replied brusquely. Ochazuke's gaze narrowed as the Old Turtle slid his right foot forward, leading with his single hand. Years training in the wilds in isolation had not left him wanting; rather, they seemed to carve new inhuman shapes in his torso where mortal frame no longer suited him.

    It was then Ochazuke became increasingly aware of the invisible force filling the field outside the cavern as if the consensation and steam had thickened the air to water. Kuki's energy came in waves, crushing against his soul, coax meaning from his movement and press intention from of him. The Turtle master dragged him under the water and sought to drown him.

    Ochazuke took a step back and raised his hands in the classic Crane fashion, igniting in a subtle clash of resistance. And then the fire grew, fed by the iron wind casting off the Hermit's snare.

    “Oh! S'a little somethin' new! Hmm...Dragon, isn'it?”

    Ochazuke said nothing, pushing against the old master's force with Karura no Kaen, the memory of a dead art given life through his pulse and breath. The expanse of their energies began to clash silently, one apostate set against the another in deadlock.

    “Th'outside world's still fulla strife, but y'seem a lil' more relaxed, yeh? ” Kuki shrugged, wet snow parting to powder underfoot and Ochazuke moved toward him. “B'sides, y'left just when y'got interestin'! Show me what else y'learned!”

    Ochazuke smirked as he faced down the old Tortoise's challenge, he kept in mind that small riddle Kuki would often ask and he'd been short of answers for.

    As a rock breaks the surface of the water, surrounded from all sides on the base of the river bed, which shall move first?

  4. #9889

    Default Trial of the Tortoise - Part 4/?

    He found it hard to breathe, though whether it was the crystallization of the sulphuric vapour rising from the cracks of the earth into the dry, frozen atmosphere, or the crushing spirit that emenated from the withered shell that stood before him across the ice. The diminutive Kuki, his single arm held before piercing eyes in a half guard held an unblinking gaze.

    I've faced down worse. Battersea, Fife...seen the Golden Eyes gazing back behind the burning darkness, he thought to himself, So why?

    The Garuda's Flame relented and in a snap between seconds, the expanse of his sense-awareness resumed, and the spread of his meditation field crashing into the territory of a self-same counterpart cast from the Hermit. Roiling in a deadlock there, each combatant was only aware of the anticipatory knowledge of the other at a neutral distance. Yet both warriors knew that is the change, the moment held in flux between warriors that shifts before the clash that decides the outcome.

    Why can't I find an opening?

    The Northern Winds howled, the boiling pit seeping from the cracks of the wild garden spat steam, the fog resolved and freezing where it formed into ephemeral crystals swirling upward. Ochazuke was aware of all as he initiated, and Kuki shift his elbow inward. Stepping forward into a lead straight aiming to sink into the Hermit's face, his fist connected with the wrinkled, corked surface of his nose, yet he did not feel contact with the substance beneath the flesh as he pushed forward. Kuki was one step ahead of him, and the impact was made insubstantial as the Hermit rolled backward, dropping his guard entirely as he was lifted off the ground. Drawn up from below, a short leg corded with muscle shot forward as he twisting with the impact, rolling off of Ochazuke's fist and kicking through the absent guard at full extension.

    Ochazuke pressed his aura against this with Shoshin Hiei voiding the blow by the smallest distance as he aligned his movement to his, maintaining his offensive balance shuffling backward as Kuki moved with his extension into a landing. Ochazuke struck as he landed, throwing his leg into the crook of the hermit's knee. Sharper still from a movement done countless times, this time he felt the impact as it fell.

    I felt it connect! And yet...

    Again he felt neither flesh nor bone, rather it was like clashing against a cloth that ambled through the air; impact made insubstantial as the joint folded with the smallest motion, carrying Kuki forward without an effort. Ochazuke was suddenly aware of steely fingers seizing his leg, weighing down as Kuki pressed to the inside.

    “Mm, s'another new one!” The Old Turtle's spit-spackled laugh held him, relaxed in the reprieve, curious. “Y'been practicin' hard Ocha! How'dya find this'n?”

    “One of my own.”

    A surge of energy blast into the ground with a fierce kiai radiating from Ochazuke. Kuki was carried away, parting effortlessly like a leaf ambling in the breeze, carried to where he may land viewing the path as it came. Holding a palm to his chest, the hermit's hollow eyes glowed as he fell.

    "Nichirin Odama!"

    Casting three palm strikes forward from a single hand, the Old Turtle cast a series of ki orbs before him. Against the field of Ochazuke's meditation, he'd remembered these familiar shapes well as they fanned out and expanded. It came in a different shape but even apart from its user, he recognized the Kamehameha separate from its user burst in volleys of light and power that cut through the icy sheet and made the aurora in the skies above wick out from the disturbance. Instinctively, the root of the Turtle Hermit's technique was answered by his own incandescent red as a Dodonpa flashed, bolted, and smashed into brilliant blue.

    To his surprise, he'd managed to match Kuki's attack force-for force, a feat he could hardly imagine a scant year ago. The second fired, and he risked to venture striking upon it with his palm and the energy wave split apart, the impact of the blow shaking the very firmament of the Northern expanse. Snow thawed underfoot as the earth split and sulpur-scented dew drops gathered, thousands upon thousands of tiny diamonds rising in a sheet between the two combatants, rippling in the dark air where their force clashed against one another. Kuki pushed forward, the third Kamehameha held close to his chest, swelling in power with every moment.

    “Kame-”

    The danger so close, Ochazuke faced the terrible power of the Northern Warrior as he crept forward in the darkness.

    Shoshin

    “Hame-”

    His nightly countenance bathed in blue from the purity of the ki gathered in Kuki's right palm, he saw there his opportunity. As every strike carves a path forward, so does it offer an opening. He charged forward to meet him.

    Mushin

    The two still saw each other clearly through the clash of their rendered will. Kuki moved his hand to cast the wave, a ruinous echo of the way Evangeline did long ago to announce her presence to the universe.

    "HA--!"

    Ochazuke took to the air, twisting forward and inward around the Kamehameha. He cast a high kick aiming to take the hermit's temple from the outside, when the old man could not guard.

    I have you now. Zanshin Touki!


    The iron wind cast around the old hermit and the totality of spirit clashing against him, the second impact held within a second strike. The curtain of mist around them was blown into steaming puddles on the hot rocks, and in the basin outside of the Frozen Fall, the warriors' clash made the North forget its wintry image, emptying the field of resting snow. The stars appeared to unvert themselves upon the earth as a sheet of cold, crystallized white burst upward and around them in the darkness.

    Yet even as the energy cast off towards the dark of the sea, Ochazuke's leg never met the Hermit, pressed against an invisible force in guard held fast, invisibly. Kuki shift through the air and Ochazuke felt only something resistant, yet pliant where his strike rest upon the Hermit's neck. He felt it then as the force rolled over him and his balance gave, Kuki sinking in his stance and his ki returning in spite of its expenditure, coalescing in a curtain of sparks like illuminate lotus flowers dancing over water where the two met.
    “Turtles live'a long life 'cause we're always watchin' out, yeh!” the garbled voice replied brightly as he jerked his neck back and forth. “I learnt this'un from you, Ocha!”

    Too late Ochazuke realized that his blows had indeed struck true, however Kuki ever so aware was slowing the limbs where they struck. He could not dodge, and so simply adjusted his stance where his feet met the exposed muskeg peat. Where he met the Hermit searching for an opening, the Old Turtle gave him nothing, and in that waiting nothingness, a subtle counter matched move-for move. It was not just an internal expression of ki to root the stance, but a defensive field set to disperse an attack.

    With a sharp horizontal twist, Kuki stamped his heels forward in pistonlike succession. The impact was neutralized and the full force of Ochazuke's blow rolled into Kuki and cut into the earth, flowing down his back foot and cutting a trench into the earth that swallowed snow into a fissure and spat the subterranean steam upwards. Breaking the engagement, the Crane returned to his stance and took a step back, bolstering the focus of his meditation to divine the method from the Hermit.

    Kei'i ken!

    Kuki started forward and raised his elbow. Ochazuke reached forward to trap his arm, rooting him to the ground, he snaked his arm forward in a Dragon-style strike towards his shoulder when he felt his hold over Kuki dissolve. The wily old hermit did something, a small shift, seizing the momentum and causing him to miss his strike entirely and he felt himself take to the air.

    Seisui Tensho!

    He strike landed, yet even as he felt the force melt from his palm, it sunk through his opponent, then resolve itself behind him. Kuki picked Ochazuke up and smashed him into the ground, returning all the force imparted to him in a single motion. Thermal vents hissed as blood hot water seeped upward. Dizzied from the impact, he could not tell if he was bleeding or sinking in a pile of filth on the plateau. Snow returned to the ground, shrinking to its previous position as the earth spat from slow, burning geysers where he landed. Grumbling to himself, the Old Turtle folded his legs and took a seat, breathing low, exhausted.

    “'m still keepin' score, for th'record. River beats rock two hundred fifty f'r two hundred fifty.”
    Last edited by grampagen; 07-03-2018 at 10:06 PM.

  5. #9890

    Default Trial of the Tortoise - Part 5/5

    The smell of earth and rot and sweat was given a reprieve udner the delight of dengaku skewers under the hiss and crackle of the fire within the cave.
    “I missed y'e m'boy. Wolves, eagles, abominable snowmen, s'just not right.”

    The host made conversation, busying his mouth for his wild eyes darted and studied the singed morsels on the skewer he held with a reluctance and curiosity. His guest, silent, rolled blackened fungus under the heat of miso and ginger over his palate as he chewred, contemplating the course of their battle with idle attentions paid to the idle tortoise crawling on the floor, pecking at cave worms by fire light.

    “'course s'not a thing t'consider 'mong animals. They can't help t'be what they are.”

    Scarfing down the mealy produce, Ochazuke could only think of how Zaofan's fare had spoiled him, though this echo of his martial brother's efforts would satisfy him now.

    “Instinct is not inuition,” he replied curtly, and tofu and cave fungus are hardly meat.

    “Y'got it! N'got no sense, fightin' a dumb thing that can't think, yeh?”

    “The same could be said for people."

    “Heh, like peas'n a pod. Looks' deceivin'! Jus' 'cause a thing looks ferocious s'not a cause for challenge, yeh?

    Swallowing the rest of the blackened mushroom-and-onion, Ochazuke, restored, at last spoke to the purpose of the reunion. Now by the light of a fire, he offered the recluse the scrolls once more.

    “I came here to ask you about the history of our martial brethren. About the Obushi-sennin,” he began.

    “Did I ever tell ya th'one about the Tengu?” Kuki continued, “Th' Komuso monks, thassa weird 'n esoteric bunch! They'd hidden their faces ta mute th'ego, then they got infiltrated by demons. Tengu started wearin' the tengui! Gyeh heh!”

    “I had heard the Master was rumoured to have aided the monk Yoroi,” Ochazuke replied, casting a glance to the ancient scroll. “Here's the matter that proves there may be more to it than just a legend.”

    “Gyah-hkkk-!” Kuki loosed a missile of seasonal phlegm through the crooked gap in his teeth. “Jus' 'cause th'stories wrote it that way doesn't mean is'sin a proper way.”

    “They said the same thing about Yetis. I had the pleasure of meeting not one, but two some time after I left.”

    “...point. Well, y'd not b'here if it weren't somethin' serious,” Kuki replied, reading through each of the Five Foundations outlined. “s'go on.”

    “This senseless war between the Five must come to an end. You said it yourself, as I learned from you, you also learned something from me,” Ochazuke said. "The reason why I departed months ago, it was because I had come to an epiphany."

    Leaning over the floor of the cave, Kuki gummed away at a grilled mushroom as he pored over the Crane mechanics of Sanchin, as ever affixed two-thousand years ago to the form Ochazuke used today.

    “Hidden as a heresy, the words, the forms, these are ideas which sit unrealized. I wish to become a vessel for this truth, so it can no longer be buried, no longer be denied.”

    “What'll you do when y'figure it out?”

    “Separations of the same art warring against each other is as senseless as the fingers of one hand competing for prominence,” Ochazuke replied without hesitation. Raising a hand before him, he folded them into a fist.

    Kuki, miso glazing his face as he mulled onion and tofu mash about his prickly teeth, nodded slowly. The dark portals of his eyes briefly seemed to flash with a luminous quality as he looked upon Ochazuke, seated at full attention, apostates of a violent religion in kind colluding in the shadows. A little more than a year ago, they'd joined one another at the end of the earth. Only the one who returned to the world was able to rise upward and look past the confines beyond.

    “When y'left here y'could see a bit about me, 'cause that's th'only thing y'were lookin' for,” he said.

    “What do you mean?”

    Kuki sighed in his aged, wheezing way and the light died from his eyes as his neck craned forward. He raised his hand up and point upward. Steadying the field of his sense-awareness in that direction, Ochazuke crept ki through those fallen forms, rock worn from centuries of condensation and drips peeling away at minerals within the cloister.

    The dragon-head of the Chimera, its wings weathered by time, its armoured carapace, its claws, and poison tail sunked deep in this ancient place in the cave wall. Ochazuke beheld his teacher and widened his eyes.

    “...are you Zxu'ro?”

    “GYAAA HAA HAA HAA HAA HAA!”

    Ochazuke's face fell flat in a stony expression before joining the Turtle Hermit in a round of raucous laughter that echoed through the humid sanctuary. The noise echoed through the halls of the ruined temple and the hallowed space shook as Ishii feast on the worms underfoot.

    “Y'got a way, boy, y'got a way,” Kuki chortled. “N'I hear what'cha sayin. But y'need th'vision t'bridge the gap.It'll be a long road t'go for yeh. I'll show y'what fer, but y'gotta go th'rest of th'way,”

    With wild, hurried scarfing, the Old Turtle ate the rest of the morsels, and part of the skewer. Standing at attention, he bound up and clamoured up the cave wall and shouted, “Meet me at th'top!”

    Ochazuke turned about face and ascended to flight, only to be summarily reprimanded.

    “Do't th' proper way, Ocha! Outside! With y'hands n'feet!”

    ___
    Even at the end of the world upon an unassailable monument to the unchanging, things are hardly stagnant. The Frozen Fall emptied its ice into the ocean, and the tide carried with it the shaking winds cast inward. Ochazuke started scaling the summit near where he first found the wall, bleeding in its shadow before the snows fell from its sheer face to claim him. Now with newfound strength, upon a smoothed, icy surface that stretched to a pinnacle eer upward, he dashed his fingers into the ice, rending holes into a face once unchanged. Irrational as it was, especially with the new gift Evangeline had bestowed upon him there in his brief training upon the Lookout, Ochazuke conceded to the cloistered master's instruction.

    He had failed to conquer the impossible once, but within the renewed dedication to see his will come to fruition, with all that was at stake, for all that was to come, he would work to ensure that was a stricture he would never fall to again. With each moment of reach between hand and foot, the vertical surface of the mountainside ceased to be insurmountable; only, in the end, a mere obstacle to a higher plateau. Every pull upward was met by a strident awareness in all his faculty, the exacting strength he would need to exert control and ascend.

    Gruelling shifting moments gave way to the perfection of that flightless pace upwards. So immersed in the task, Ochazuke soon met Kuki at the top, hurling himself up on the edge and stood upon the peaks facing the black oceans as the sun rose.

    “Perfection means nothin' without th'conquest of failure,” the Old Turtle said, “Y've become strong, but Th'key to becoming stronger is t'remember what it means to be weak, and never lose mindfulness of this.”

    He had seen the world from Heaven above, miniscule and shrouded beneath a sea of clouds. Living among that small sight in the life he had ever known - the life he had run from - had set his mind to shame, and brought another to ruin. Even now she was in his thoughts.

    “It took y'a year t'start meditation. That's so y'could get th'sense of things b'fore y'can act. I mean, standin' stubborn is a thing, but not if y'wanna do somethin' about your situation. Keekoohoos make a big statement, I wanna make sure y'don't just flash out t'nothing.”

    Things had changed drastically on the face of this world. Once there was the only the fear of losing everything, the denial of jealously guarded secrets, held fast to codes of honour built on lies. Here, at the summit at the edge of the world, Ochazuke found another height to ascend, an opportunity to make due recompense, and within that the faintest hope for the future.

    “I would be honoured, Sensei.”

    “Blah, Sensei,” his counterpart replied, “this ain't a dojo!”

    “But we do have a goal in kind. Show me how I might reach it, I am ready.”

    “Boy, flattery'll getchu everywhere. F'now, we got work to do!”

  6. #9891

    Default Trial of the Tortoise - Epilogue

    All his life the hermit had aspired to reach the summit, but he had found there alone at the top of it all that there was nothing. Transcended the limits of his soul and fortitude to stand astride the the peak, he'd thought he'd find new levels of mastery there once he was able to look at the world below. Yet to his aged eyes before which had passed countless conflicts, very little had changed, and he'd become another notion set affixed to this place of stagnant death-in-life.

    The young man he found there looking up from the bottom was little different from the multitude of others who felt those from the top pushing down. Perhaps it was novelty that moved his single hand that day, reaching beneath the fallen powder and into the heated pools as his rescuer. Likely, it was simple loneliness of the centennial Turtle sensei. For thirty years he'd cultivated mushrooms and internalized the style in the shadows, prolonging his life in an endless stretch that would remain the same ever after.

    Perhaps it wasn't for nothing after all, if the teachings imparted to that young man pushed aside fear and apathy. Maybe, having seen the edge of earth and heaven, he had a different vision. It would better suit a Crane, he supposed, to spread his arms between the sky and the ground and create a pillar of support.

    Though the rock may be tossed by the river, the water must first spring from the earth, upon which it shall rest, and be called 'river' in the first place. The realization struck Kuki just as he noticed it began snowing. Within the cave. Turning a curious glance to the right as light began to fill the chamber behind the fall, he was unprepared for the severity of what cam next.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cthulhu_of_R'lyeh View Post
    Ymir, the Ice Giant had been reawakened.

    And with a roar that shook the ground itself, monstrosity of ice appraised its would be vanquisher. And then with a sound like an avalanche, the entity began to speak.

    "Who dares to wake Ym- ..."

    In the end however, whatever it intended to say was silenced, as Ishtar propelled herself forward with her powerful legs, and landed a blow that vaporized the creature's torso. The Oni's only offering of explanation, a proclamation made to herself, and her alone.

    "Excuse me, but I have been out in this cold, in what Sarada calls 'booty shorts' all day."

    Severing the the now dead Ymir's head then, before it could fall and sink beneath the waves of its bed-turned-tomb, Ishtar returned quickly back to Emma, and her Arcane Forge ...
    The glazed surface of the Frozen Fall began to crack, and a great rumbling split the earth, twisting the foundations beneath and folding in the range of hollowed chambers held fast only by the ice within. Stalicites shook and fell into the rush of boiling springs that tore away the frozen mortar of the mountains, and the cave-in was complete.

    Ruinous, the complete descent of Kuki's hermitage fell on the earth, only the leaning monument of Zxu'Ro's Dragon-head standing a ruined obelisk in the snow. The rumble echoing loudly across the empty plateau until sound stretched so thin that no living thing, sparse as they were, would hear so much as ripple. Nor would they hear the thunderous strike that followed from below.



    “...Ishii m'terrapin friend, we're leavin',” Kuki said simply as he rose. Steadily, he began overturning rocks in search of the small natural affectations that was his substance for the past three decades.

    One night of howling yetis smashing each other over the horizon made a hermit's long sleepless night ever bleaker, but still confirmed his solitude in his retreat away from the troubles of men, only the primal howl of untamed nature. Now that ancient things began to stir beneath the blanket of snow, just waiting to be exposed, however...

    “Nope, n'thanks. Pack y'things, buddy.”

    “Gyeck.”

    Ishii sighed and leapt to the air. Pulling in his face and stumpy legs, gouts of blue fire emerged from the gaps in his shell as he began to spin with such force that he began to levitate. After packing the letters, and folding in of his favourite roots, shoots, nuts, pupated larvae and various fungi gone to spore. Kuki tied a bundle over his chest and took one last look at his hollowed abode, examining from top to bottom the lost legend. Unopposed, never changing, stagnant, nothing was left but the exposed surface of a boiling pool and glassling protrusions sinking into the ocean beyond the cliff.

    A wild whoop echoed through the wilds of the Frozen Fall one last time. The ice of the surface surged and cracked as water flowed from that place for the first time in millenia, filling the temple chamber and coursing out to sea. Standing his left foot on Ishii's back, balanced by the dynamic forces of his technique to keep himself centred, the old Turtle Hermit and his companion took off to a fresh new horizon. As they rose into the clouds a mechanical scream railed overhead, and he broke off, Old and Little Turtle landing with a rough thump on the tail of an airplane.

    “Time t'find a new home,” he mused openly to his companion, nestled silently under shell in the crook of his lap. “I wonder if th'old Dojo s'still up'n up n'this age?”

    The hermit leaned back, secure in the idle flow of ki that anchored him on the alminium-alloy tailfin, as he bowed his head, resting immovable against the whipping drag of cruising distance, adrift on the slipstream wherever on this earth it may carry him.

  7. #9892

    Default Tiger in the Glass Cage - Part 1/?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cleric of Hell’s Brigade View Post
    He nods.

    “Give me ten minutes and I’ll get you your copies.”

    Some minute alter he returns and hand sthen over.

    “As to her location....here, Capital City. The correctional facility is housing them in their special K-Wing. Here, take these credentials.”

    He hands Ochazuke a paper.

    “That will authorize you to get in to see her, but only for a few minutes. Good luck.”

    The silence resumed where the two had left each other. The black walls cloistered the view through shatterproof glass, that claustrophobic, unbreachable gulf that separated one from the other. Ochazuke looked upon Kenshiko, garbed in her new uniform of burgundy like all of the rest of Capital City's maximum security inmates. Irons bound her wrists and ankles, tethered at a fixed distance to her waist. She leaned back where she sat in the cheap foldout chair, turned away with nowhere to go, looking down on him low out of her left eye, her spirit mechanically dampened by a collar on her neck

    “Kru.” Ochazuke lift the receiver and spoke. “You're looking well,”

    Her bound, bloodstained hands stretched lazily forward, a pair in chains dropping the phone line before her with a clatter. Straightening up, she seemed to look down her nose at him, her eyes then following something in the air above even as her sigh fogged the glass. The ceiling was full of cameras, the cameras trained their eyes to personnel, and it was adamantly clear the words they spoke in artificial intimacy did not go unheard.

    “Why is it always you?” The receiver lay on its arm upwards. She sounded like she was miles away where she stood, two feet behind transparency.

    His gaze fell on her, and for a moment he lost himself in the bright, burning eyes cast down through the glass, still holding the shape of warmth he'd known long ago. Strips of torn linen looped and knotted around each finger of her fingers with an acquired stain, and the months that had passed pushed up black roots of her hair, framing her features with an uneven stripe. From the way she looked he could not tell she'd ever been brought to the edge of death. There was that resplendent strength he'd longed to see again.

    “What do you want, Ochazuke?”

    Held captive so to what he wanted to see, he'd lost perception of the moment. /What was done cannot be undone./ He'd returned to her side before to recapture a figment of his past, as if to see her would validate what had brought them here and make whole what had been missing. Today, he stayed at a distance, seeking the insights of one of the living heirs to the legacy of the Five Schools. Kenshiko, the Tiger Master, lay her war-hewn hands on the table before her, clad in rags like the hemp ropes they'de once used in training. Ochazuke emptied the folio into the transaction drawer before him - The five facsimile training manuals and the letter he'd asked Jinzi to reproduce for him. Sliding it forward, the documents went over to Kenshiko's side of the glass.

    “Nothing much to do in places like these but to think,” Ochazuke said. “One's thoughts seldom lead anywhere but inward. I brought you something from the outside.”

    Her hands sift through the paper archive, an affixed pair peeling them slowly apart from the top to expose the ancient diagrams of men bending in mimicry of animals.

    “Always gazing back to run away from the now. Heh.”

    Ochazuke thumbed the Capsule Corp cufflinks in his loaner jacket sleeve. The very same logo marked every piece of technology in the prison. Her eyes flit from the Crane Suparinpei form and narrowed.

    “They think this collar will keep them safe, heh,” she glowered, “It's like training back up from the bottom. Way I figure, starting from zero is better than remaining a bought man.”

    Even as he looked at her, he felt the leaden weight well in his chest. When she left him the last time, to face justice and testify to her own, Ochazuke thought it would end there. Late, as ever, he made his move to reach only when he'd known she was lost.

    “I suppose I am. But this is a matter outside of our mutual friend. Involved as he is, he's on the outside looking in. It's all just data to him, but we live it.”

    Chains rattled as Kenshiko fumbled with her bolted hands to read the last testament of the Master:

    Quote Originally Posted by Cleric of Hell’s Brigade View Post
    Six scrolls lay within, each in perfect condition. Five are the foundation scrolls of each school, with the basic forms and techniques. The sixth is a letter.

    “To all who read this, hear my words: When the crane flies, the tiger strikes. When the turtle crouches, the snake is lost. Above all, the Dragon is summoned, and the time shall come. Find me when the five are one, find me at the place of birth. Find me, and let your belief be cast against my own.”

    —Zxu’ro, Founder of the Five, Grandmaster of the Chimera.
    Connected with the Tiger scroll written in that classical text so familiar, the pause in her barbs wicked away at what little time they had. Especially for her.

    “I found this, following another man at the end of a dream. I suppose these days, the past is all we have in common.” Ochazuke straightened as Kenshiko leafed through the document emblazoned with the familiar totem she'd inherited and upheld. “The Master of the Founder of the Tiger School. Does the name Zxu'ro mean anything to you?”

    With an effort on her bound hands, she set the facsimile scroll on the table before her rough-hewn fingers, an understated fury flickering in the turn of every page, rattling the chains as Kenshiko laughed to herself.

    “You call yourself a student of mine. Heh. Even the privates that washed out of Raider basic learned more than this shit.”

    Her fingers slid out, feelers gliding over the illustrated Nak Muay's deep rolling stances and double-thrusting arms.

    “Footwork's all wrong. Look. All of this shit telegraphs. The side-teep is off-balance, unrooted. The load of the round kick is immobile. Chambering from the outside is only good for signalling your opponent for something to grab.”

    Her lips twisted into a hollow smile exposing sharp, spiteful fangs. Ochazuke looked at her flatly. “You and your sister...”

    Kaibyo. Me. Our family improved it. That's how we started winning. And that's when our students washed out. Just like you, they couldn't keep up.” She said looking pointedly at him “A seal and a date doesn't make useless shit any less, Ochazuke. This 'Master of Masters' should know you don't recklessly throw out power. But if you can't discern this I've taught you nothing.”

    He was wordless for until the drawer slammed back to his side of the glass and rocked back on its roller bearings.

    “These scrolls are useless. Especially if you would presume to know anything about legacy.” The chair screeched as she pushed backward. “Or loyalty. Or duty.”
    Last edited by grampagen; 07-06-2018 at 02:09 AM.

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