Clouds Will Rage In

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    Looking back, it's hard to understand how I was so casual about the first sight of the raided caravan. We have seen this kind of thing before, so I guess I just treated it like any other quest event.

    At least, I did until I saw something unusual. A lander woman. She was dying. Apparently she had a poison condition. Fast as I am, I barely reached her before she burst into pixels. I only had time to look into her eyes. She looked sad. Afraid. She barely raised her hand to reach for me when she was gone.

    I was angry. Monsters killing landers always infuriates me. Still, it isn't like a real person dying. Well, it wasn't. Real people, after all, have complex emotions, relationships, hopes and dreams. Landers are just, well, a bit of coding. At least that's what I used to think. That fear, though, that sadness and her vain reach for help, it was human.

    It hurt. I hurt.

    She looked like my aunt Miki.

    It is what followed, though, that would set in motion the biggest change in my life.

    And so... this is what happened that day..

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    Asuna opens the day with a chim, letting her fellow Samurai know she's heading off to Eastal, where there are stories about beastman raids. There are always problems like this, and while the loot is terrible, Asuna is known for having something of a one woman war against them. The trip is not a fast one, but by early evening, they are out in the woods, following a common trail not too far from Fort Ouph.

    "So the rumors are that a bunch of goblins or orcs or maybe gnolls are in the area. I think the gnoll threat is diminished, so that seems a bit unlikely. I imagine it's orcs, though. Probably a lot of them, with a few strong captains, maybe a shaman or a chieftain. Or all of them at once!"

    A big fight! Plenty of enemies for the three of them! Maybe some loot! Probably horrible, useless overland mob loot! But it's training. Working together to fight a huge group of enemies with nothing but their wits, swords, and martial arts moves that put Hong Kong Cinema to shame.

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Ever had one of those mornings you wake up, get out of bed and have the sudden realization you have no clue on how to what to do with the rest of your day? That's how Klein's day started at first, but thankfully it doesn't last for very long. Thankfully before he can ponder on how to spend his day, Asuna is quick to save the day! Well, actually start it, anyways. So this scruffy-haired samurai is living up to the Ronin name.

Asuna lists off some of the races that are almost always used for evildoers as minions or are just plain evil. She's certainly not wrong, but ETO loves to throw out some surprises when you think you have it fully understood. "Watch. We find a raiding party, but it'll be Cait Sith bandits attacking a caravan of peaceful goblin traders. Can't tempt fate like that!"

Training against weaker monsters, regardless of race, is still going to be good no matter what happens. It helps keeps attack patherns in your mind, any equipment they find can be given away or sold, and it does help give them a good reputation with any groups they meet. Everyone wins all around!
Soujiro Seta
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Soujiro Seta is here. No, he does not appear from nothingness or pop out from behind a well placed tree. He is here when he is needed and Asuna needs him. It could be beastmen or it could be a bakeup. He would show up. He is here.

"There was an event back in the old Elder Tales where if the Adventurers left the tribes alone for too long that they would start a massive raid," Soujiro offers, pulling on his experience in the Tea Party for always looking into content like this. Shiroe did, at least. The blue haired samurai walks with a candid smile on his face towards the other two, "sounds like fun." He loves combat and adventure. Making people feel safe is a big driver too. Both together? Bonus!

"You know," Soujiro says as he hasn't been one to think /too/ deeply about these things, "if the roles flipped it wouldn't be any better, would it?" Klein brings up a good point. He can't think of many cases that deviated from 'Adventurers, good, strong, and win. Monsters bad, weak, and lose.' "Good think there are three of us to get to the bottom of what is the best way to handle things," he sparkles, leaning on the real strength that is a healthy, well functioning group to navigate the currents like a crew of sky pirate-crusader-venturers.
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    The path the three follow is lonely. But for the three of them, they've not met anyone or seen anyone. Until, up in the distance, there is the sight of a wagon. A caravan, seemingly, as another wagon is revealed in front of it.

    "Cruelty is terrible regardless of who is carrying it out," Asuna says in response to Soujiro. "I would have more trouble attacking enemies that look like our friends, though. The nice thing about these games is, they take away that whole issue with moral ambiguity. We are given endless waves of pitiless, cruel enemies that can be dealt with in the most absolute of terms with no regrets."

    Seeing the wagons moving ahead, Asuna hastens her pace. "Might as well catch up quick and see if they've got any news to share!"

    The group does not go far, though, until it becomes obvious that the wagons are not moving. Due to the road's slight curve, it takes a bit longer to see why. There is nothing to pull the wagons. The yokes and harnesses that once held animals are resting on the ground.

    A little closer and the signs of violence become clear. Arrows buried in the sides of the wagon. The bonnet is slashed. Wheels were even broken.

    Asuna narrows her eyes, but doesn't say anything. Not yet. The sinking feeling is enough to feel in her stomach. She doesn't have to give voice to it.

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Soujiro proves that he is a fountain of knowledge when it came to prior Elder Tales knowledge once again, and Klein takes note. "That's...actually pretty dynamic, honestly. I guess we got a taste of that back with the gnolls. Can never be too careless and forget about prior threats." Rubbing the scruff of his chin, he laughs softly and raises a fist towards Soujiro to bump hands with. "Yeah, you said it."

Despite his own musings, Asuna is pretty much right about that. Still, as much as he wants to get back home, you can't treat every monster here as an enemy. He's seen the odd case or two himself where staying your sword once saves you a lot of grief down the road. Just have to give them that chance.

That easygoing grin Klein usually sports fades as he catches sign of just how extensive the damage is. Fires still blaze and smoke fills the air as they get nearer. Breaking into a jog, the headband samurai charges ahead to scope out the damage in person.

It might have been a little wiser to hang back and scope out the situation first, but Klein wasn't willing to wait around. This works in his favor as a beefy orc jumps down from a wagon with his hands filled with stolen goods, leaving him wide open to Klein's katana. A crate of fabric dropping follows the sound of shattering glass. Right, that means they can still take care of a few mobs before they escape. "Hey braindead green giants! How about you pick a fight with something who can fight back, huh?!"

Best to get the orcs to come out of hiding first.
Soujiro Seta
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Cruelty /is/ cruelty whatever the source. It is hard to think about that stuff when there is a warm sun on your skin. A cool breeze against your cheeks that send the scent of nature against your nose. The warmth of friendship by your side and light of adventure in your soul. Soujiro gives the affirmative to Asuna's advance with little more than a smile and a pick-up of the pace.

Cruelty is cruelty whatever the source.

"If you can hear us, head to the sound of our voices. Follow the light. Help has arrived," the sword saint says. Whatever kind of day they might be having, a victim's day would be worse. To have their day flipped like this, the response of an emergency team is important. In another life he might have been a police officer like his father. In this one, he thinks of the people who need saving first. And then...

...the holy blade Kogarasumaru is drawn from sheath, its light bright even in daylight. "For the rest of you," the young man continues as the inscription shows on the blade, a saying for each side, "hear my challenge and /face us/." The Samurai's Challenge. An area wide taunt forcing an enemy to face the tank. A samurai skill for three Samurai. The words on Kogarasumaru light up as it is now fully drawn:

Protect those that cannot protect themselves.
    Avenge those that have been wronged.
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    The challenge is raised, and the taunt works exactly as intended. It is clear that many of the attackers remain, though a first appraisal of the site is far from promising. It's apparent that if there were any guards for this wagon train, they are scattered or defeated. The orcs were busy looting. Not fighting.


    Now they face a battle for their lives, and they rush out to charge at Soujiro and Klein, keen for the challenge.

    Asuna is not as quick to the front as her fellow samurai, though. She swerves to the right as she races on, taking Soujiro's right flank while Klein already battles to the left. It is there, on the side of a wagon that she encounters her first orc, who is standing over a prone Lander. His wicked axe springs back midswing as Asuna projects the Absolute Void before her, driving him back and nearly wrenching his weapon away.

    There's a moment where Asuna looks down at the Lander. She's a woman, perhaps in her thirties. Asuna meets her terrified gaze. Sees a hand reach up. A moment later, the poison tick hits and that lovely face bursts into pixels.

    Stunned, it takes Asuna a moment to remember she's in a fight. She casts herself to the side, her rapier making a desperate parry that blunts but does not prevent the attack from leaving a glowing wound in her left shoulder.

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Insulting orcs tends to be a pretty easy way to draw their attention to you, especially when you killed one of their numbers out of the blue. Soujiro draws aggro of his own quite easily, splitting up the aggro between the two of them. This suits the scruffy samurai just fine, as he knows he can trust his friends to cover his back, no matter what he jumps into.

Several of the orcs try to swarm Klein from all directions but are sent flying back with a spinning slash. An archer tries his luck with an arrow, but is deflected with Klein's light armor and receives a tossed fireball for his troubles. That's when a battlehammer-wielding barbarian charges Klein, roaring out a challenge with his weapon held aloft over his head. As for what the redhead does against such a large foe?

He sheathes his katana. And waits.

One hand held on his sheathe and his right hovering over the hilt, Klein focuses his attention on those hands holding the large hammer. Seconds seemed to lengthen as he waits, watching as the weapon slowly starts to fall towards him.

With a burst of flame, his katana launches outwards out of it's sheathe. Grasping the hilt, the scowling redhead sidesteps and swings in the same movement, a flaming arc flowing through the air. A pair of green skin arms goes flying before shattering into pixels, and then a red-hot blade ends the life of the orc barbarian.

A part of him is giddy about actually pulling off his first Iaijutsu technique, but there's more important matters at hand. Running forward, he lifts up an injured Lander man who was cowering under a wagon and shoves him into a run behind him. "Don't go too far, just stay safe! We'll handle these guys." Taking a quick moment to make sure the Lander wasn't going to go blindly running into the woods, Klein starts running forward. There's still more orcs to take care before these people are safe, and no samurai worth his salt is going to stop until they are.
Soujiro Seta
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

Soujiro Seta walks towards the dozen orcs that have taken interest in Soujiro's challenge. Energy is not wasted. The attitude is taken for underestimating them as three orcs leap at him in true 'get em boys!' minion fashion. The arc of the cut is so smooth it could be mistaken for the crescent of a moon as all three of the monsters burst into a spray of pixels. It is then that the remaining orcs understand what they are dealing with and worst of all? They can't look away due to the challenge. Their lives end quickly in a flurry of steel and light.

"Stop!" yells one of the Landers. The young lady ran towards the light and the sound as requested, but were intercepted. Her beau grabs the orcs arm in an attempt to free her. Just as the power of the Adventurers outweigh the orcs, the orcs overpower the Landers. The axe comes up. It descends. His life flashes before his eyes. Only the light is that of Kogarasumaru, the white blade that finds the orc and disarms him. Including the arm as it flies off. The orc starts to scream as the lander lady escapes, being finished off by the Lander bravely taking the axe to the orc's skull. "This way," Soujiro offers the two, motioning to the clear path where they will be safe from the battle. He escorts them back, a thrown axe heading their way before it is cut down mid-air by a katana parry.
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    Asuna's situation is a bit, well, messier. Her focus, usually so swift to come to her, is dulled and slowed. Luckily for her, the orc she faces is alone. Klein and Soujiro have drawn the rest down upon them.

    The Flash has to fall back, gusts of air throwing her out of harm's reach. The frustrated orc raises its weapon for another attack, but this time Asuna does not leap away, she charges forward. Strike after strike tear into the orc before it can even start to lower its axe. Something akin to a confused look is the last expression it bears before dying in a burst of light.

    Asuna looks back at where the Lander woman was. She has to wrench her attention away from that empty space and move around the wagon. By the time she moves back into view of the other Samurai, the fight, it seems, is essentially over.

    Asuna draws a bow to deal with the last orc she catches sight of. Swiftly she knocks the arrow, lifts her bow, a breath is taken in, then slowly let out as she draws back the string. With the very last of her air, she is perfectly still while her target attempts to flee. The arrow is loosed, cutting through the air and finding its mark. A brief glow of pixels comes, then goes. A useless orc's tooth no doubt marks the resting spot of the enemy.

    And then all is quiet.

    Asuna stares into the distance until something perks her ears. A nervous knocking, as if on wood. It's a kind of hollow sound. Springing up onto the open back of the further wagon, she confronts a sealed chest, held fast with a sturdy lock. A frantic child's voice is coming from it a moment later.

    "Help me! Momma! Please don't leave me!"

Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

What follows for Klein is a few minutes of back and forth, switching between urging Landers to safety and fighting off orc stranglers trying to salvage the raid. It seems that everyone on his side was safe when one last orc attacks Klein from the side, disarming the samurai. Sure, he doesn't have his steel katana still in his hands, but he's far from defenseless.

Reaching up to his headband, Klein pulls out a tiny needle and points it towards the orc with a grin. The orc starts to laugh at hopeless weapon, but that only emboldens him. "Achete!" Be it an activation word or just a meaningless world of an ancient laungage, he still doesn't know. What he does know is that the needle suddenly grows and Klein stabs forward like it's an estoc, surprising the orc and shattering it a moment later. "A good samurai always has a backup."

Shrinking his weapon and sliding it back into his headband, he reclaims his sword and starts to doublecheck the wagons. "Everything clear for you guys?" Sure, he can see their health, but having confirmation is important. Some of the Landers he couldn't get to were starting to come out of hiding, some sporting injuries and others crying about love ones lost. Trying not to let the sight bother him, Klein starts checking the rest of the wagons, and stopping in place as he hears a child crying for help. Jogging the last few steps, Klein peers inside and sees Asuna. "Need some help getting it open?"
Soujiro Seta
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

"Clear," Soujiro annnounces as he takes care of all orcs in his sight plus escorting all visible Landers from his sight. That isn't to say there is a plus out there crying out for help.

The Sword Saint goes into overdrive mode. He will protect you, little child. Where are you? Look to the left. Where are you? Look to the right. Soujiro stops at the knocking and fears the worst: A mimic has gotten the child. Unforgiveable!
Yamato - 41 - -2 - 0

    It's that voice. Small. Alone. Scared. It causes Asuna to not think clearly, but she does move with resolution and focus.

    She can't pick a lock. She has no skill with that. What she can do is jam her rapier through the shank of the padlock. And then pry. Hard. Harder. The rapier trembles, the chest makes a pained sound as the hasp meets it match. The rapier is doing poorly, though.

    Asuna is straining, but she braces herself, putting a foot on the chest and really putting her full power into it. Finally, with a most unpleasant sound, the hasp is torn off and Asuna's weapon breaks.

    The Flash reaches down to lift the lid of the chest to reveal... a little girl. There's not a lot of space, considering that the chest wasn't even empty. Looking up, the little girl is blinded by the sun, seeing only the outline of a woman above her.

    "Momma! Momma!"

    Asuna hesitates just a moment, but with the child reaching up to her, Asuna leans down and scoops her up. She's a slender little thing, so light. Asuna's surprised. She's never actually been this close to a Lander before. This little girl feels.. warm. Her hair is soft. There's a unique scent in her hair. Her voice makes Asuna... well, feel things she didn't expect.

    "Where is my momma?"

    It's a simple question. Asuna, though, can tell by the face that the answer is tragic. The resemblance is impossible to miss. Even in the moment she saw the poor, dead Lander was enough to make it clear. Asuna's face crumbles in sadness.

    "Where is my momma?"

    The little voice is insistent. It needs an answer.

    "I'm so sorry. Your mother... she didn't make it."

    There's a moment where comprehension struggles, rejects, and slowly, after the child looks around, dawns. After she sees the Landers. She sees her mother isn't there.

    For a few moments, Asuna sees that little face struggle. To resist this being true. And then despair sets in.


    Asuna doesn't think. She just holds the child. Gently, she guides the little girl's face to her shoulder. The tears pour out.