... now they must watch their abundance of luxuries fall away, making room for the tools of survival, and witness this time of relative peace wither into the same fears that harper's ballads had warned them about for generations.
 
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 The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)

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Eloaene

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PostSubject: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Mon Aug 12, 2013 11:42 pm




My heart burns red.
Crimson rain falls.
My words are taken away by the sunset.
This time is frozen in my memory.
I am the symbol for a dull sense of peace
that changes into terror on sleepless nights.

The smile of people dies
by the dirty hand of autocracy.
The sacrifice is countless.
You can’t wipe the blood away
when you’re covered in it.

There are no saving hands
able to reach out to lamentable people.
Tyrannic ways invite hopeless despair and
this meaningless crimson rain
born of worthless rivalry.


-excerpts from “Worthless War” by the GazettE.





Subtle tiers were pallid against the Captain's lurid complexion where faint moonlight streamed in, those lips pursing together without knowing whether he should wake Ariadne and speak with her, or continue to let her sleep. Gazing down at where she lay, Toshiro sat up enough to lean back onto one hand, considering the thing which had occupied him so completely over the last couple of days, keeping him up at night -something which he had not yet spoken to Ariadne of. A troublesome thing it was, and the distress caught him running his other hand back, through dirty blonde hair.

Toshiro sighed, but quietly, finding that he did a lot of that lately. Lord Matoi had requested his presence in Telgar Hold, and that was a place that he had not been to for many turns. In fact, it was possible that he had set his mind to never going back there. Telgar Hold held good memories for him; memories that were far more fond to him than those he'd made while away from the Hold he'd grown up in. Funny then, wasn't it, that Telgar Hold was the very place he avoided having to return to?

Recently, his reasons for hosting such reluctance were twofold, both reasons equally significant, yet he was unable to refuse. Part of him wanted to believe that after his visit with the Lord Holder of Telgar, he might be able to come back home and pick things back up where he left off. In the back of his mind though, Toshiro knew that such a thing was not what Lord Matoi had in mind for him. In his heart he knew that when he left here, it would likely be a very long time before he returned. There was no way to promise when that day of return would be, nor was there any way to promise that he would ever return. Though he wanted to look forward to the happiest ending possible for he and Ariadne, reality was often not as kind.

Watching his fiance sleep, Toshiro wanted nothing more than to kiss her and hold her and never stop. His heart burned with the only kind of burn which one could find hopelessly blissful. With that feeling though, he would have to suffice. To keep himself from becoming any more tempted to wake her, Toshiro left the bed, gently tucking the covers back in around Ariadne's sleeping form.

Most soldiers would rather couple with their partner before leaving for such a long period of time; a final desperate act of love to be remembered by until enough time had passed that they might be able to reunite. Such desire however, was not one that Toshiro now possessed. Toshiro had promised someone once, that he would give a Great Love to Ariadne- one which could not be rivaled. It was a promise that he fully intended on keeping. Unfortunately, that Great Love was something that he feared Ari would have to wait on. And until that time, when he was able to give himself to her properly in marriage, Toshiro wanted to long for her as he had never longed for any other. So, his reasoning was that should he deny that passion between them, he would miss her even more.

Toshiro relied on Ariadne to save him at least once more. This longing for her is what would bring him home. So,...this was not 'Goodbye'.

Then again, maybe it was. He'd never been very skillful about saying 'goodbye'; he wondered if perhaps that is what he was really avoiding.




Rising from their bed to clothe himself, Toshiro realized that it would not be light outside for at least another three candlemarks. Most of Telgar River Hold was still fast asleep.

Pausing to look back at where Ari lay, Toshiro let another silent breath part his lips, but only just. Reaching into the breast pocket of his uniform, a note on thin parchment was retrieved, being folded unevenly, and having marred edges. Going from the room, the message was laid on the dining table for her to find when she awoke. Taking up both of his weapons as he always did, within that left hand, by the muzzy glow of the night's only natural light, Toshiro found his way through the front door. He did not look back. He did not allow himself to falter in his determination to do what had to be done, even if that meant denying them this Great Love that had been promised, for a little while longer.



Captured, as if under a spotlight, beneath a halo of glittering moonlight shining through the kitchen window, the letter lay, and when unfolded, in small, neatly penned script read:

"I have been called to an urgent meeting with Lord Holder Matoi. I am sorry for having to go on such short notice. It is early in the morning that a Rider will be arriving to transport me to Telgar Hold.

If you should need anything, I have hidden a box with anything valuable to me beneath the loose floorboards in the kitchen. There are a few marks, amoungst other things. Everything of mine is now yours. Well, everything except for this body. That is something I have no right yet to hand over to a new master.

Isn't the heart always the exception, though? I am leaving it behind, in your safe keeping, as well. I am entrusting everything to you while I am gone. I will return as soon as I am able. When I do, I will make certain that there will never again be a reason to separate myself from you."


That final promise was one that he would be sure to keep. Toshiro had no intention of returning to Telgar River Hold until he'd disposed of every possible of threat to their everlasting happiness. Which meant that he intended on fighting the Chorong Rebels once more, if that's what it came down to.





Managing to make his way no more than a few short blocks from their quaint abode, Toshiro stopped short of the training grounds through which he'd planned on walking in order to make his way to the Hold proper. Pern's twin moons shed light on an imposing figure whose shadow loomed much larger than he.

Upon recognition, orbs of lusterless hazel hue became startled, suddenly able to forget the rest of his troubles. Troubles which now seemed insignificant before the man he now faced. The man who'd promised to kill him when next they met. The only man he'd ever dared to consider calling 'father'.

Trying to swallow his fears and pervading self doubt, Toshiro fixed his eyes upon the Commander, feeling as though his stature had been diminished to no more than that of a stubborn child. So easily was his confidence extinguisehd by the swordmaster's curt greeting.

"Toshiro. Why is it, that you look as though you've never held a sword before?"

Though nervous energy had him grinning lopsidedly, Toshiro wasn't about to find the situation of Commander Kondo's return funny. "What do you mean?"

With the typical wit that Toshiro knew him for, Kondo only half jested, "Does my dumb apprentice feel something for once? Are you in pain? Or perhaps it is that you feel some sense of impending doom upon my arrival?"

"Are you asking? Or are you hoping?" Expression wry, Toshiro could hardly let himself answer truthfully.
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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:06 pm


She woke abruptly when the door shut, no matter how quietly Toshiro had thought he was. Of course her body would have picked up subconsciously that he had left their bed. Subtle though the changes around her while she slept were, adding them together, piece by piece, her body began to wake. Something was not as it should be.

So it was that Ariadne woke with a start, and a gasp. Seeing that Toshiro was not there, she got out of bed, and went into the main part of their house. When she saw his weapons missing, she knew he was not there. Ariadne searched the house for more clues as to where he might have gone at such a late candlemark. Her eyes finally resting to the letter lit up by the moonlight.

"I have been called to an urgent meeting with Lord Holder Matoi. I am sorry for having to go on such short notice. It is early in the morning that a Rider will be arriving to transport me to Telgar Hold.

If you should need anything, I have hidden a box with anything valuable to me beneath the loose floorboards in the kitchen. There are a few marks, amoungst other things. Everything of mine is now yours. Well, everything except for this body. That is something I have no right yet to hand over to a new master.

Isn't the heart always the exception, though? I am leaving it behind, in your safe keeping, as well. I am entrusting everything to you while I am gone. I will return as soon as I am able. When I do, I will make certain that there will never again be a reason to separate myself from you."


Short notice? Surely he would have given enough time to tell her in person. She didn't want him to leave without a proper goodbye. What if he was injured? What if his Master appeared while he was at Telgar Hold and he had to face him? He should never have left her without a goodbye. Ariadne always regretted not telling her first husband how much she loved him before he died. She did not want that sort of regret again. Saying goodbye would make it easier on her too, rather than what he might think. She would likely be having their child without him. She needed some of his strength to see that through. A memory fresh on her mind would help her more than he knew.

She felt the tears falling before she could manage her emotions. Ariadne re-read the letter, grabbed a long tight knit sweater and threw on a pair of work boots without much thought as to what she was wearing. Maybe if she hurried she would catch up to him. Ariadne knew where they would probably leave from and she knew what path he was most likely to take.

As she walked, she heard rather than saw Toshiro from around the corner. "Toshiro." She said, loud enough to distract both men. "I cannot believe you would leave without a goodbye."  She came close enough to him that she could touch him. She wanted to be angry but had no words to express the emotional turmoil. Pregnancy and what came with it only made this extremely emotional in comparison to her normal. She punched him right in his right shoulder.

Ariadne did not think about how she must look. Still dressed in her night shift, with nothing but a sweater on and some boots. Her hair still wild and frayed from sleeping on it. Her pregnant belly protruding enough for anyone to see that she was with child. She looked a mess to say the least.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:41 pm



Conducting themselves as usual, the wise wise-cracks were about to continue when Ariadne unexpectedly joined them. Inwardly, Shiro winced. He should have known she would wake up and come after him. That only made him feel worse for justifying in his own mind the fact that he'd been about to depart without any real 'goodbye'.

Both men stood silent as she yelled at him, and seeing her cry then, only compounded the pain of her punch. He winced at that, too. After that, all he could do was stare back at her a little dumbfounded, and hurt -by the hurt which he'd obviously caused her.


Taking the sharp minded Commander only a moment to realize who the girl must be to his adopted son, he waited another breath or to before interrupting them. He noted well that the woman was pregnant, and observed well the expression in Toshiro as she reproached him. "I thought the look in your eyes was different. I guess it's safe to say that this must be who changed them."

The Commander's wry expression turned down into a deep scowl, focused on Toshiro. The man's broad shoulders lifted in a sigh of disappointment before continuing. "Having a woman in your life again, is my stupid apprentice so eager to agree to help Lord Matoi? We both know what he intends to ask of you."

While Kondo questioned him, Toshiro reached to take Ariadhe's hand with his own, giving it a squeeze before he reached to embrace her briefly with his free arm; afterward, he still kept her close to offer what comfort he was able by proximity alone. By the time his adopted father took a breath, Toshiro's gaze had become much more serious, turning to look up at the taller man who was still a number of paces away. "Even had I no ambition to help, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if the Chorong got to have their way!"

"Since when did I teach you to wield a sword of vengeance?! Stop making excuses to justify the fact that since the day you left Telgar Hold ten turn ago, you've been living life under this conceited notion that you could ever wield a weapon to create a better world for others. Your heart and your hands will only continue to live opposing purposes!"

The Commander's glower persisted, growing ever more discontent. His words seemed only confuse Toshiro, who could find no argument for the accusation right away. Seeing that Toshiro understood that his master was right, Kondo's mouth twisted into a bemused smirk again. "So what is it that you plan to do? Repeat the mistakes of your past?" Kondo went on in reference to Ariadne just so that he could drive the point home. The words were uttered in a hushed tone of curious nature, hinting at those things which Ariadne did not know of him. "Returning to how you were, do you think it will be okay with her? Or did you even have the heart to tell her that you let them take your humanity once before? I warned you! Yet you still allowed them to use you as their slayer. You make it easier for them to take from you again."

The Commander paused for a moment, never letting his eyes off of his student-son. "Back then, it was rumoured that the look in your eyes alone, was enough to strike a man dead." His whisper was heated by the acidity of it. "That is how frightening you were to them. Do you want her to see you like that?"


Still without words, Toshiro could only glance between the two, letting his eyes finally turn down to where that one arm had loosely been wrapped around Ari's shoulders. Squaring himself to face Kondo again, Toshiro's head remained bowed in slight. In that moment, he must have seemed ashamed, afraid to speak anything that might be on his mind, because he knew that Kondo was right. But he'd already given himself over to this purpose. Wasn't it his duty now to complete it?

When Toshiro didn't go on, Kondo finished his thought by addressing Ariadne directly, although in a tone that was much more kind, "Diabolical fiend manifest. It would be a tepid description at best." Indeed. Perhaps there were no words to describe what a heartless beast he'd been back then, and now, they were preparing to ask him to go back to that time. It was quite likely that he would return as a man very different than the one Ari knew now. If she understood that, then perhaps if Shiro didn't listen to Kondo, she might be able to stop him.
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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Thu Aug 15, 2013 5:40 pm

Not for the first time Ariadne found herself unhappy but not so much with him as she was with herself. She should be stronger. Able to live without him more easily. She should be able to deal with him being gone from time to time. Drawing comfort and some strength from his embrace, her eyes fell on the other man, whom she soon was able to assume was Kondo, the Swordmaster of Telgar Hold. She had not determined to dislike him but as he spoke she found herself growing a bit defensive.

How dare he? Of all people he should understand how hard Toshiro's life had been. How he had been isolated and molded into the swordsman he was now. His young life had made everything more difficult for him. Especially his relationships with women. Now he had been called into service by the Lord Holder of Telgar. Even if Toshiro wanted to refuse it, the Lord Holder would never take no from someone sworn to protect the Hold. That would be insubordinate.

Blue eyes focused on the Swordmaster as she turned her emotions onto him. His callous assessment of Toshiro and his motivations made it all that easier for her to say what she was thinking. Toshiro had a different life now, he had things he looked forward to more than killing. He had a true family with her.

Kondo might think his words were helping to persuade Toshiro to do what he wanted him to do but all Ariadne saw was how they pushed Toshiro away. If he wanted Toshiro to choose differently, to make decisions according to a conscience he had lost, then he was going about it the wrong way.

"If Lord Holder Matoi has requested the presence of Toshiro, he must go. What he does from there will be decided from his own conscience. Nothing you say will change that. Badgering, bullying and being cruel to him will not change his mind." She sighed. "How can you be so cruel to someone you should love? If he truly is like a son to you, you must allow him to make his choices, to live with the consequences and to learn to be who he wants to be. This is not something you can control. No matter how you might want to."

She had a daughter who would likely be very different from her in some ways. She would probably make choices that she did not agree with. "Having a child is to know unconditional love. No matter what they do, or do not do, they hold your heart. If you have those feelings about Toshiro you would not be so quick to judge, or to fight him."

Maybe she had crossed a line in defending Tochiro. He might not want her to defend him but at this point she couldn't help herself. She was upset. She was upset with all of it. Most importantly she was upset because there was nothing she could do stop either of them from doing something foolish. Men really needed to work on being less stubborn.

Ari didn't think it was so horrible that Toshiro was needed to defend against the rebels? Was it not the purpose of the Guard to defend the Hold? He would not be whole again till he dealt with whatever demons plagued him. One day, she would look into his eyes and see he no longer felt a desire to battle the world.



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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Thu Aug 15, 2013 10:11 pm

To tell the truth, Kondo wasn't unhappy over Ariadne standing up for Toshiro. That she did so, was testament to the fact that he was at least able to do one thing right; and that was to start learning to love. Even in her emotional state, he doubted that anyone would put up such a front for someone they did not deeply care for. And she was going to be able to give Toshiro something that the commander could never provide for him. A family.

The tall swordsmaster smiled at that. The only reason he didn't laugh out of appreciation of the knowledge, was because he wanted to listen to what else she had to say.

Kondo was by no means an unkind man, but Ariadne did not fully understand the relationship he and Toshiro had. Kondo was not truly a father to Shiro, yet he'd raised him; he was a teacher and demanded the respect that a master teacher would be given, yet he and Shiro were able to love one another in a more familial way than most other student-teacher pairings. Their relationship was very special -to them both.

Because of that, when Ari got to the point of accusing Kondo of being a bully, Toshiro turned to stop her. Placing a hand on her shoulder, "Ari. It's alright," he tried to butt in, but she was too worked up for her speech to be brought to a halt.


As Kondo listened to Ariadne and considered her words, watching Toshiro turn, debating on whether to make a move to stop her mid-sentence or not, the man couldn't help but laugh. The harshness of her tone seemed to roll right off of him, seeing as though he'd found some amusement in it all that finally caused him to have to interrupt her; but it seemed as though she was done speaking anyway. The Commander was well aware that trying to persuade Toshiro to do anything was useless. Toshiro'd been no different as a child. That fact is what prompted him, "Now I see why."

The man's laughter resonated deeply again and even Toshiro turned back to stare at him with curiosity. "I see why he likes you so much. You're just as stubborn as he is. I guess that's good. He'd never fall for a girl who wasn't made of tough enough stuff to handle him."

The Commander continued to let that revelation amuse him -it made him glad, really- but it did not distract him from the subject at hand. He went on in mild jest, "Since you two are such love birds, he should have told you he's not my son. How could I adopt a brat like him?"  Though Kondo's words were perhaps a little stinging, it also grew more apparent by his tone that he might be teasing -something that Toshiro and he understood to be both in mock and half-seriousness.



"He's so disobedient. How could I not be infuriated at him? Toshiro's the one who abandoned our training and disappeared. He's the one that left on his own, disregarding his master's advice. That's what got him into the mess he's in now. It would have been better if he'd let himself grow up a little before becoming so deeply entrenched in the Rebel problem. He was too young to deal with the things they delegated to him. But...There's never been anything I could say or do to make Toshiro listen to me; he's always done whatever he wanted."

Letting Ariadne consider that, Kondo didn't add to that thought, but he did think that continuing to offer a hand of assistance is always what a parent would do, even if the child never accepted it. And that's just what Toshiro did; he never accepted Kondo's hand. But that was how he'd always been. Toshiro had always wanted to achieve things on his own rather than rely on someone else. That made it frustrating though for Kondo to watch Shiro make mistakes, suffer greatly because of them, and then want to return to repeating that past. It wasn't only frustrating for him, it hurt him to see Toshiro have to suffer; yet that was what Toshiro chose. The Commander felt that heartache more keenly when realizing, just as Ari did, that there was nothing he could do to change Shiro's mind; there was no real way to help him.

The entire situation made him angry, but that wasn't the whole of it. That was only part of the issue.

Perhaps Toshiro still didn't realize it, but Kondo had tried to teach him to find peace with himself and others by finding balance and harmony within the whole natural world around him. To seek any other kind of peace was futile. Toshiro however, had been too immature at the time to understand that. He'd run off in search of a different kind of peace. A peace found by swinging a sword and creating enough bloodshed that eventually one side of the conflict or the other would give in. That kind of peace was feeble and could never last.


Truly, Kondo only ever wanted Toshiro to become the most distinguished swordsman Telgar might possibly have ever known. He desired greater things for Toshiro than Toshiro had perhaps ever dared to desire for himself. Only, Toshiro made it more difficult for himself to get there. To become as great a man as his skill suggested -to be greater than his own master- Toshiro would have to progress beyond average when it came to the manner in which he treated the heart.

He would have to realize the importance of life before taking it.

He would have to realize the insignificance of one's own life, and that there would be things more important than ones' self in this world. Especially when given the power to protect it.

Existing as he had in that time, Toshiro had thoughtlessly disregarded that part of himself and others. It was a disparity that cost him dearly. It was something that 'telling' could not teach. Toshiro would have to learn it on his own. And if he could not, then he did not need to continue on this wretched path he'd made for himself.

But now that Kondo saw his student-son with Ariadne...he felt hopeful. He was beginning to see that Toshiro had begun to overcome that disparity created in himself.
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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Sun Aug 18, 2013 4:30 pm

As much as she wanted to believe what Kondo was saying. A small part of her thought that perhaps Toshiro considered Kondo a father more than Kondo considered him a son. She didn't like that. She knew she came across much tougher than she truly was. "I'm not as tough as I look." She said softly, her eyes resting on Toshiro and not the Swordmaster.

"Then you see why he must go." She was still looking at her future husband. "He has a chance to do things his way, this time and not be manipulated by men in power. He is free to make a choice for himself. And it will be something he has to live with for the rest of his life. I'm certain its not something he takes lightly." At least he better not.

She wondered what Toshiro was thinking. Sometimes she could sense what he was thinking and feeling but now in this moment, she could not. Maybe he was not happy that she had spoken up. Well she wasn't exactly happy he would leave without saying goodbye to her in person.

Ariadne was no great swordmaster or well versed as a Lord in strategy but she did know more of Toshiro's emotional problems than she might have let on before. And she loved him maybe despite that darkness she still saw in him every now and again. If it was who he would become, she didn't know what she would do. She couldn't see herself not loving him, no matter what kind of monster he became. It was strange knowing that but it wasn't something she would broadcast. She was almost ashamed that she should feel so.

"Toshiro, I did want to ask you something..." She said almost timidly. This really wasn't where she planned on asking him. And she hadn't even thought it would be necessary but she would need to know and she would need to know likely before he got back. Especially if he accepted Matoi's offer.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Sun Aug 18, 2013 6:48 pm




While Toshiro watched the interaction between his fiance and his master, he considered what both of them had to say. If not for his own sake, he had to believe that Ariadne was right, and that if he did go to meet the Chorong again, it would be as a much more prepared and hopefully more mature man than he had been before. Couldn't she be right, and his master give him a little more credit this time around?

Kondo was all but fed up with trying to dissuade him however. In the Commander's mind, the fact that he was prepared to return to battle for them only meant that they already had Toshiro in the palm of their hand, knowing that they could use him however they wanted. But Kondo also knew that his student-son had sworn in blood his fealty to that friend who now requested him to go. Yet, he also knew that that didn't mean Toshiro had to go along with everything Rihan said -it just made it a lot more likely he'd answer to Rihan agreeably.

Whatever was decided, the Commander only wanted what was best for Toshiro and for the Hold. Simply put, Kondo understood the sword a little differently than most, so he sought to achieve ends differently, even if the means might be less expedient than most were willing to hold out for.

Because he'd known Rihan to be a very bright young man, and even been charged to train him for several turns, Kondo knew that Rihan understood his methods and had expected the young Lord Holder to treat the situation differently. He was turning out to be more like his father than he'd anticipated, so it seemed.. so it disappointed him that Rihan had agreed to send Toshiro to his father. Because of their blood oath to one another, sworn as brothers, Rihan could have withheld Toshiro and garnered what Matoi needed, himself. Toshiro wouldn't have to leave Telgar River Hold and be pressed to return to being a slayer again until the rebels hit Telgar River Hold. Yet Rihan had chosen to do things his father's way and hand Toshiro over to him.

Kondo couldn't help but sigh.

Any further thoughts from either one of them were interrupted when Ariadne started to ask a question of the Captain present. Toshiro straightened himself even more, and angled himself to face her more fully, his eyes searching her own as they always did, always finding love and consolation in the unspeakably beautiful depths of them. "Yes?"


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Sun Aug 18, 2013 7:06 pm

Ariadne was glad she had broken the silence with her question because it was becoming quite uncomfortable. Somehow she knew this would seem trivial to the men present. It wasn't. Her question was anything but trivial to her. And she hoped it would shed some light on what life Toshiro would be leaving behind. "You are going to think I'm being foolish. To me this is important. Its our family and I want things to be as we decide them to be." Not just her, it was hard to be alone with a child. And now she would be alone with two.

"You know I asked you to think of names. If you are not going to be back in time, what do you want the name to be? Its very likely you won't be back for the birth right? Cause this Rebel thing will take time." She looked down not intentionally but because she couldn't look into his eyes anymore. She was afraid for him. So very afraid and he wanted her to be strong. She wished she could be.

It was as if there was no audience to their talk. Ariadne had never cared if there was. When she thought of being without him, nothing else seemed to matter but letting him know that she would continue as she was while he was gone and she would be thinking of him. There were words that she didn't need to say and he would understand but sometimes it was better to say them out loud anyway. Her hand moved to touch his jawline. Her eyes returned to his now that she had banished the water from them, "I love you, you know."


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Sat Aug 24, 2013 8:38 pm



Toshiro sought Ariadne with eyes filled with concern as she addressed him with her question. He was being inconsiderate of her again. He always seemed to be doing that, even when he was trying not to. Even when he had no intention of doing so. He felt cornered, without options, compelled to do as he always had -fight. But before her eyes could leave his however, he had found the feelings of insecurity and fear, frailty and longing within her. Seeing her that way, broke his heart.

Listening to everything she had to say, he didn't respond in words until she was finished speaking. He had watched her expression and her eyes, even when they lowered, the entire time.  For the moment, he tried to smile and be a little reassuring, "For now, all I can say for certain is that the Chorong and Telgar are not in open conflict, so regardless of what Lord Matoi wants to ask of me, all we can do for now is give them a warning. It's like me, isn't it, to prepare for worst case scenarios? But right now, there's no reason to believe that I won't be back before then. If for some reason I am unable to return to you by that time, I will write to you with names."

The Captain of the guard looked on his fiance adoringly, reaching an arm around her again to embrace her and draw her to him, planting a kiss on her forehead with great affection. "I'm sorry if my sudden departure caught you by such surprise. I shouldn't have caused you so much worry." Of course, the Commander wasn't helping the situation either. It was a little irksome that his master would keep up their conversation in Ariadne's presence and not care to take it elsewhere.

He started to turn back toward Kondo then, the much larger man taking steps to come closer.

"And if the rebels don't stop there?" Kondo had by that point leaned the scabbard of his sword on one shoulder as he walked, "If you really do insist on fighting them, do you think you'll be able to fight them as you are now? Do you think it likely that they've been sitting around twiddling their thumbs since Telgar put an end to their last rebellion?"

The Commander's words gave Toshiro pause. Toshiro might be clumsy with his words or perhaps inept when it came to knowing just how to foster meaningful relationships with women, but he was by no means a dimglow. Still, he wasn't quite sure he knew where his master was going with that point.

By then, Toshiro was standing beside Ari again, facing his master with curiosity now spread across his features.  "Do you know something? Or do you mean to say that I haven't been practicing?"

"Are you willing to wager that your skills are as refined as they once were?"

So that was it.

True, running patrols and teaching classes were no comparison to employing one's skills in a duel to the death -they were quite different. But Toshiro wasn't about to agree that he'd let his skills decline that far in the turns he'd been in Telgar River Hold. Maybe that was why he'd come back from the mission to rescue Lady Eolyn so close to death. Maybe Kondo was right? Self doubt began to creep in at his periphery then.


Though Kondo was convinced now that Toshiro's heart had begun the transformation he'd been waiting all along to see, he couldn't let his student-son off there. He might have begun on a better path and with the chance of making better decisions in the future regarding the use of his specialized abilities, but Kondo wasn't about to let Toshiro wander off again being unprepared. At least last time he'd been near the end of his training with Kondo, and all of those teachings were fresh in his mind. Before the Commander could feel any more at ease about letting him go, he would help refresh Toshiro's memory.. he would help Toshiro find out just how prepared Toshiro was. Because they both knew that if the Chorong ended up being serious about another uprising, they would be more prepared this time around. They would be considered an even more dangerous foe, and thus, Toshiro too, would have to become all the more deadly.

In an unexpected rush, Kondo had brandished his sword; it was a slice that would have severed Toshiro's head from his body had he not acted on pure instinct to catch the swing of the sword on a few bare inches of his own upheld blade.

Toshiro had not fully drawn his weapon to stop his master's attempt, but held the hilt fast in the grasp of one hand while the other still clung to its sheath, having slid the casing down the length of the blade by just a few inches -enough to be effective in its use. Gritting his teeth, the Captain tried not to growl, but he was frustrated that Kondo was set on making him fight here.

"Ari! Step away!"  Ariadne was too close to the conflict for comfort and knowing his master's intentions, didn't know whether or not he'd aim for her just to push Toshiro to his limits. In order to ensure that didn't happen, Toshiro did growl, and he pressed Kondo back...but he still didn't draw his weapon, and it was difficult holding the position with the scabbard of his jutte also in hand. He would have to get rid of it quickly.

Kondo withdrew for a moment long enough to speak, seeming lazy about the way he handled his blade. Of course there was no such thing, where it concerned the Commander. "Do you hesitate because of her?"

Of course he did. Toshiro couldn't remember a time he'd ever drawn his weapon in her presence to engage in a full-on fight. He'd much rather avoid it.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:54 pm



Ariadne wanted desperately to be comforted by Toshiro's embrace. His words should also be making her feel better, however she couldn't help but feel more worried. "I will always be concerned for you when you are away. I don't think I can help it." She didn't know how to live without concern for him. He put himself into danger often enough even here in Telgar River Hold, that she was absolutely certain he would do so again in a more dangerous place.

She didn't seem to have made any progress in deterring him or his master from wanting to start a fight with one another. It would be pointless for them to waste time fighting but it seemed that didn't matter. Men could be such idiots. So as Kondo drew near
she felt as much as saw Toshiro tense.

When Toshiro told her to move away she did so. Not because she was afraid for herself but she knew he would have a better chance at fighting the other man off if she was farther away. She moved far enough away that there was little chance that either man could accidentally harm her. Her hand rested on her belly as she watched.

Ariadne had never truly watched Toshiro fight. She could not move her eyes from them, nor would she move out of ear shot. The men seemed oblivious to her presence now. She had no idea she was having any effect on their battle until Kondo brought it up. "Can't you settle this another time?"





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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Fri Sep 13, 2013 9:32 pm



"Can't you settle this another time?"


It was a request which could not be met. Kondo had already made it clear his intentions here, and those intentions hinged on making his student-son face the truth of his situation. He wasn't going to let Toshiro run away forever.

Kondo came at Toshiro with another stab of his sword, which the Captain easily stepped aside from, using the still-sheathed blade to guard himself. But the stab had been a setup, and Kondo followed it immediately with a strike from the opposite hand, which still held the scabbard.

A sword's scabbard was crafted of incredibly hard wood, which could itself, be used as a weapon. To keep from being bludgeoned, Toshiro was forced to draw his sword; the blade leaving him guarded to the one side while the sheaths of both weapons cracked together as the met on the other.


Redirecting his approach then, the Commander directed another series of strikes with his blade, tossing his scabbard aside, now that he had Toshiro's full attention.

By then, Toshiro, too, had discarded his weapon's casing, and Kondo's attacks came with more abandon. In fact, they came at an alarming rate of speed. Speed however, was an illusion. There was a trick to it.

Though Kondo attacked furiously, the key was in anticipating the opponent and timing actions correctly, so that no rush was needed to produce a response. Watching two masters of swordplay must have been a dizzying display to see. By perfecting movements into such refined technique as theirs though, speed was attained not just by moving faster, but by moving less. There were no wasted movements in their performance, no flowering flourishes just for show. Timing and distance were incredibly tight.

Toshiro had been keeping up with his master's strikes, never making a strike at the man of his own. It seemed odd, but Toshiro only blocked the man, using his sword and sometimes one hand to  lock the weapon into awkward holds, just the same as if he was using grappling techniques or joint locks in hand-to-hand. Actually, it was a very impressive display of skill.

At one point, Toshiro manipulated their blades into a twist that forced Kondo's torso down at an awkward angle, causing him to release the grip of his blade from one hand, after which, Toshiro nearly broke it free from his grasp entirely. Unfortunately, the disarm was unsuccessful. But Toshiro was still reluctant to fight Kondo with Ariadne there, so he continued to refrain from counter-attacking -which in the end, would never produce victory.

Wondering just how he would manage to defeat his master while refusing to make an attack of his own became his dilemma. And it wasn't only because Ariadne was there, watching every move they made, but he had no desire to fight Kondo.

Even though Shiro never attacked, Kondo continued to press him, trying to force him to do so. His apprentice though, as always, was stubborn.



Blades met again, scraping metal upon metal until they nearly came to meet at the hilt, but Toshiro didn't stop there. In a continuous movement which threw both of their weapons high, Toshiro rolled the hilt of his sword in his palm until he held it in a reverse grip. As the sword's tip turned back toward the floor, he effectively hooked it over Kondo's wrist, at which point, driving his sword toward the ground, the Commander's sword arm was taken with it. In order to maintain his balance and not lose hold on his sword, Kondo had to close some distance between them, leaving him at a momentary disadvantage. And Toshiro took it.

While Kondo stumbled forward to regain his footing, the pommel of Toshiro's sword came right back up, driving it painfully into the man's diaphragm. Toshiro could hear some of the wind knocked out of him as Kondo stumbled backward then, forced to take a moment to recompose himself.

While he waited, reconfiguring his own stance, Kondo's words from earlier echoed in Toshiro's mind. "Are you willing to wager that your skills are as refined as they once were?"

The self-doubt that frequently intruded upon his confidence, offered unwanted distraction. Both hands tensed ever so slightly on the hilt of his sword, barely following his Master's next move up in time, to counter it with a worthy riposte. Perhaps the Commander was right. Perhaps he was also unwilling to fight him because he was afraid to find out that he couldn't overcome the challenge that Kondo offered.

Feeling the tension in his body perfectly, the impulse of every muscle fiber...Toshiro tried to remember back to that time which his master referred to; he tried to find the 'him' within his mind, as he had existed back then.

This world -the world around him- fell away. The current morning's sunrise easily replaced in his mind by the memory of dusky evening skies augmented by the flames that arose from burning buildings, and his eyes lost their focus momentarily. He could feel then, more keenly, the clear difference between himself in both times -and he felt assured that Kondo was right.

Afraid that he would lose himself to those memories though, Toshiro fought them with a single thrust of his weapon, forcing Kondo to fall back a step while he did the same. A calming breath did little to take away the feeling of anxiety though, that spread through him, not noticing he'd begun a slightly nervous sweat over his brow.


Recognizing that Toshiro was reluctant to face either his master or his past self, the Kondo offered a final warning of intention, "My next strike will be to kill. Not because of the rot that was once in your heart, but because if you cannot pass me, I am certain you will not live long enough to return home to your new family. As your master, I can only hope that you would create a successful path for yourself in life that does not end in your own undoing; but you've always been a mildly disobedient." That was putting things lightly.

"If I raised such a sorry apprentice, then it is better that you die by my hand. So fight me, or I will end your life here. I will not hold back!" The Commander's demeanor changed then, becoming severe in such a way that Toshiro had never seen of him. His eyes appeared small and black, slightly sunken and shadowed with age under a heavy brow. His demeanor was not that of the good man who'd raised him. He could sense an overflowing urge from Kondo to end things here. It was a disconcerting sensation, suddenly feeling so disconnected from his teacher.


Kondo's attacks after that, were unforgiving. Realizing that there was only one way to keep his master from killing him here, Toshiro was forced to fight back. In that moment of realization, it appeared as though Shiro's eyes glimmered with tears that would not fall, wondering if he could rise to his mentor's expectations...wondering if Kondo would force him to complete his sword by taking the life of his master.

Engrossed in conflict, there was no more chance to think things through though; mortal combat had ensued. Toshiro would simply have to let the fighter's instinct within him determine the outcome.

The two of them fell into a flurry of attacks and counter attacks that flowed seamlessly like a twisted dance; they even seemed to keep rhythm with some unheard tempo. Their timing with one another was perfect. Their dance was entrancing.

During the match, Toshiro and Kondo seemed almost evenly matched in skill. It was because they both used the same unique style of swordsmanship. They could more easily anticipate one another, because they were both very familiar with the next choreographed step as it were. But...still, Toshiro struggled not to constantly fall a step behind, becoming harder and harder pressed to keep pace with his master.

That was the level of his master's skill though. It still exceeded that of his student; and that became a poignant reminded that there were some things he'd missed out on in his training, after choosing to run off and fight a rebellion before his time.

Toshiro however, was an adult now, much more practiced, even if Kondo was right in that he'd let his skills languish a bit. Toshiro was a quick study of those movements he did not recognize, and he filed them away in his consciousness for later use -a use for which he found quickly. Executing one of his master's untaught tricks with precision, Toshiro further proved his genius in combat when, in mid-fight, he'd discovered his own use for a technique which he'd never before tried to utilize. And he'd done so with such a degree of perfection and speed, that even to a trained eye, it would have been hard to see.

Kondo was caught off guard my the maneuver throwing his momentum into a spin to evade Toshiro's sword tip. Both men closed in on each other then with a final whirl of momentum, twirling blades drawn high until the silvery edge of them came to rest against the side of the other man's neck. It was an even draw. They could have decapitated each other at the same moment in time. Holding their positions, a mirror image of one another in their stance, it was clear though, that neither would do such a thing. The resolve of both men was dissolving.

The Commander stepped back first, lowering his weapon, after which, Toshiro did the same. "You aren't prepared to take my place yet, as the grand master of your art, but it will have to wait until your return. You'll only do what you want, anyway, so go and create your path. Please don't make it one that you'll regret, this time around."

"Master."  Toshiro's words came quickly after the man finished speaking, and at first he was uncharacteristically hesitant, "Kondo...Do you think that while I'm away...if I should end up having to face the Chorong again, that you would keep an eye out on Ariadne and the baby for me? I wouldn't be able to be here to protect them."

Meeting his student-son's concerned gaze with consideration, the Commander had to turn him down. "I'm sorry. That's your choice, if you abandon them. I cannot fulfill another man's duty. That duty is yours alone." But somehow, Kondo's eyes, and the manner in which he spoke those words of hard truth, caused Toshiro to believe otherwise -that somehow, Kondo might help out, if worst came to worst.

Why was his master always so hard on him? Why did it never seem like the two of them saw eye to eye? And yet,...there had always been some strange sense of understanding between the two of them.

Toshiro couldn't argue with his master over duty. Perhaps he'd promised too much too soon, and would not be able to fulfill every promise he'd made. The thought irked him that...maybe he wouldn't be able to protect both, a family and a Hold.


As Kondo went to retrieve his scabbard, it was sheathed and then without any sign of farewell, turned and slowly walked away, seeming to be headed for the holder's residence.

After watching him walk some distance, Toshiro turned to glance back at his fiance. For a moment, he wondered at the kind of expression he would find there, so he searched her face for answers, or rather.. searched her eyes for continued love and acceptance. He was glad to have ended the entire confrontation quickly, without anyone getting hurt, even if he had been pressed twice by Kondo into something he'd been trying to avoid. In a way, the entire encounter was a failure, because he'd been unable to avoid having to draw his blade; but in a way, he'd succeeded, because in the end, he'd forced Kondo to accept an outcome he hadn't been expecting. One that was just as acceptable as a clear victory.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Wed Sep 18, 2013 2:04 pm


Ariadne soon saw that Kondo was insisting on testing Toshiro. Everytime the other man attacked she held her breath. She had every faith that Toshiro was a great swordsmen but he was fighting the greatest swordsmen in Telgar Hold, or at least until Toshiro beat him. He would beat him, he had to. She could not bear to see his Master kill him in front of her. She might try to kill the man herself although she probably wouldn’t be in control of anything, not even her own actions if that were to happen.

Kill him?! She felt her heart stop for a moment. No, no, no. He couldn’t kill Toshiro. No matter what he might think, Toshiro had life yet to experience with her and their child and Thessaly. She could imagine them all together smiling and having a good time, in their home. She could see such things as clearly as the fight before her. In which Toshiro was forced to truly fight against his Master.

She watched as quietly as she could. The blades clashed and clanged as the battle drew onward. More than once she was concerned that Toshiro was losing ground. Ariadne did not want to see either of them killed, she didn’t particularly like seeing death. Especially not death of those she knew. Kondo might not know her well yet but she would have liked for him to be included in their family, if he would have allowed Toshiro to be who he wanted. This fighting seemed so pointless to her.

When Toshiro used a form of swordplay she had never witnessed before, she saw that it surprised Kondo but not enough to defeat him right away. He was losing ground though. Feeling a little more relieved that he was up to the task of fighting Kondo, she forced herself to continue watching. When the Swordmaster was defeated, she hoped that Toshiro made the right decision and let the man live. There was no reason to kill him. Even if it seemed he wanted Toshiro to do so.

She could not hear what transpired between them next but she waited to approach until Kondo was leaving. Catching Toshiro’s gaze, she smiled and walked back his direction. “I know.” She said and put a finger to his lips. “You have to go.” Her eyes peeled back whatever layers of emotion were there, then she came in closer and hugged him, arms wrapped around him. “I love you. Please be careful.” She said softly.

Then she let go of him and took a step back. He was going to leave now and all she could do was hope he would be back as soon as he said he would be.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:01 pm

While Kondo disappeared and Ariadne approached him, Toshiro's breathing was heavy, obviously having exerted himself, but he seemed to have caught his breath again by the time she set the tip of her finger to his lips. He'd looked down at that hand, and even took it within his own then, holding the hilt of his sword then within that right hand, but he said nothing while she spoke to him.

Glad to hear only words of encouragement, Toshiro always felt uplifted by her. He felt strong with her near him, and in his heart and mind, and felt capable of anything -as long as she was there. Perhaps it was the first time he really thought about how deeply he must be troubling Ariadne by making the decision to leave, but Kondo had pressed the point with him. He'd been thinking only of duty before, not about what was right for her and his child necessarily. Being given another chance to rethink things, Toshiro's mind had been altered as to what he'd decided to do regarding the rebels.

Toshiro made a promise to himself that he would do everything he could to assist and direct the Lord Holder regarding the rebels, and then return to Ariadne. If he didn't have to, he would avoid being the one to hunt them down and confront them. For her sake, and the sake of their child -he wanted to be there for them. That desire only grew stronger now that he was faced with parting from them.

Looking into his fiance's eyes then, he found himself unable to express the deep sense of appreciation he felt for her love and kindness just then. There was no end to his appreciation of her strength and endurance when faced with all of the trouble he'd caused her and was going to end up causing her by leaving -at least for this short time.

When her arms wrapped around him, Toshiro stuck the tip of his blade into the dirt so that it would stand on its own, and in turn, wrapped his arms around her. Holding her there for a long time, he spoke nothing, but relished the final embrace they would be able to share for some time.



It seemed like several long minutes had gone by by the time Toshiro released her, stepping back so that he could collect his weapon and its scabbard, tying it to the belt at his hip. "Remember that I love you. I will return as soon as I am able. I will do everything I can to be back in time for the birth of our child." Smiling, glancing down at her round belly, Toshiro placed a hand upon it, hesitating there.

Momentarily though, he took a breath that seemed more like a sigh, and collecting his focus once more for where he was going, turned his eyes back up to Ari. "Take care of yourself. If you should need anything, you know where I put everything of importance and all of my marks. You can also ask Jungi.. or even ask Lord Rihan. After training with him as children, we could consider each other friends. Now, he is my sworn brother. He and Jungi both. It is unlikely that either would turn you away if there were anything you needed." Which was part of the reason Toshiro and Jungi both, were able to treat Rihan without the formality in which most were expected to treat him. Rihan didn't feel it was brotherly to expect formalities. They were with family amoungst eachother.

Toshiro rarely revealed to anyone -simply because there was no real purpose in doing so- that he had formed a blood pact with the Lord Holder. Jungi and Toshiro, in actuality, had sworn loyalty to Rihan, and thereby each became brothers in their relationship. But no matter what happened now, they had a responsibility to one another. One day, together, they would become the veritable god-heads of the underworld and surfaceworld of Telgar by the influence of their varying positions and talents. It was something which they all three were aware of, even if no one else could see it. Of course, no one else needed to come to that realization. All they needed to do was control the peace and wellbeing of the people.


Leaning in to give her one last kiss on the lips, Toshiro offered one more gentle smile... or rather.. the expression appeared slightly pained; perhaps uncertain. The Captain turned then from her and started for the landing platform where his dragon ferry would be awaiting him.


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PostSubject: Re: The Return - (Tags: Ariadne!)   Wed Sep 18, 2013 6:33 pm

Ari smiled to keep herself from crying. She knew he wasn't going to be gone for long but the damned pregnancy hormones were making her more emotional than usual. "I will. We'll be fine, I promise." She meant that, she would take care of the children and herself. Even if she started to neglect herself, her rather large family was there to set her back on track. And as he said, Jungi and Lord Rihan would help her if needed.

"I know." She nodded, she knew what to do should he not come back as planned. Ariadne had no way of really knowing if he would be back but her heart wanted to believe he would be and that was enough for her. She would not let him see her sad before he left. His kiss was somewhat reflective of what they were feeling but she was determined still to have him see her happy before he left. She wanted to make it easier for him.

Watching until he was out of sight, she turned and headed back to their home. If she was crying, no one was there to see or hear it. She never wanted to be separated from him. A few days could easily feel like forever to her. It was perhaps because she loved him so much that any parting felt like part of herself was missing.

Until he returned though, she would be strong and take care of the children. Her parents would help her when needed. Besides he would be back soon, she told herself even as she felt like a weight sank into her stomach.


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