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Unread 7th of June, 2004, 04:06
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·····Subchapter 9b - Meanwhile, somewhere else

The camp was neat and essencial, as it was the habit of the order when travelling.

The sisters had made haste Eastwards, eager to bring back the relic to its rightful, honored place; Maeko, as the one most instrumental to the Bowl’s recovery, had been given the honour, and the burden, of its custody.

So it was that, when it happened, the young nun wasn’t eating with her sisters, but meditating in the shrine-tent.
She had been fasting, both in thankfulness and penance, the former because she had been granted the possibility to atone for her past misdeeds, the latter to purge herself of the longing and regret she still felt for her chance-met companions; murmuring the Sutra of the Pearl she sat, contemplating the love and grace of Master Botahara, when the forest outside suddenly grew silent, an heart-beat later the silence was shattered by a throaty scream.

Attack! Without thinking Maeko rushed out, and stopped suddenly.

At first glance everything looked as it should have, but for a knot of four sisters bent over something.

“Ahhhrrrrrr” the scream rose again.
Maeko recognized the voice, it was Sister Yumei, the Seer. She started running to where the four were holding down the seer so that she , when in the spirits’ power, would not injure herself unwittingly.

The ear-piercing, bestial sounds started to form words, Yumei youthful visage changed, became more mature, as she started to speak in the Abbess’voice.

“Daughters.” Her breathing was laboured, often interrupted by a cough “ The Emperor…accused us of treason….the imperial army attacked few days ago……they are in, the Temple is burning….. you are…”

Silence. Maeko stole a glance to her sisters, only to see in their eyes the unbelieving horror she herself felt.

“ …The only remains of Phoenix’s song Monastery. …. Save what you can, my daughters…. Find a place…rebuild…. May the grace of… ”

Sister Yumei’s eyes rolled up as she fainted.
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Unread 21st of May, 2006, 18:24
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Sometime later

They didn't really believe it yet, but belief didn't matter in the slightest, they knew their home did not stand anymore, and they had been set a task...

Ceremonies were held in the small clearing: sutras were chanted and incense burned, as much to honour the dead as to confort the living, and people had come too.
To make sure we don't plan to steal anything had commented Sister Lanyu, always the cynic, after their fist meeting with a wide-eyed pig-herder.
...but they had kept coming: out of curiosity, first, for the strange bald women dressed in exotic garb, the outlandish chants and the mysterious rituals, not coming out, but peering into the clearing through the last trees; out of defiance, the little ones, dared by their peers to go near the strange witches from far-away who could change them into the gods know what or have them for dinner; out of need, at last, those who came near looking properly at the ground, speaking in hushed voices, showing their ailments other healers could do nothing about...
Some of those came back too,bringing small gifts in gratitude, and others, whishing on them the curse of gods the sisters did not know and throwing stones.
And then the village priest came, to see, as he put it 'What all the commotion is about'.
He was an unusual man, a well travelled one, from his conversation, intelligent and curious, 'too much for my own good, dear woman', as he said to Maeko with a booming laugh.
Their story, though, sobered him up, 'I might be able to do something for you...I'll have to ask around, but if memory serves..." and with that he excused himself and left.
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Unread 25th of May, 2006, 16:16
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Ben pulled his hat down further over his eyes, shielding them from the few sun rays that managed to penetrate through the forest canopy. It was starting to get colder as winter approached, so he would probably need to find some warmer clothes soon. But his current clothing suited him fine for now. Besides, he doubted the witches who supposedly lived here would care what he wore.

"Witches" eh? Probably just some sorceresses too stupid to keep their magic hidden. The family Ben had spoken too had seemed very concerned and fearful of these newcomers. Soon after telling him about them, they had packed up and moved on, probably heading to one of the larger cities. Deciding to check it out, more out of curiosity than anything, Ben walked towards where the family had said the witched lived. If these so-called witches were actually as terrible and dangerous as the family had claimed, he figured he would take care of them. If not, well then he would just find out the truth.

A man walking in the other direction caught Ben's eye. The other man wore clothing that seemed to show something significant around here, but Ben wasn't familiar enough with the area to know what yet. The two men exchanged nods, but nothing else. They kept walking in their respective directions without slowing. Soon Ben came to a clearing. It was just a slightly elaborate camp, nothing to really get worked up over. The only thing that made it remarkable were the odd symbols here and there that Ben couldn't recognize.

Oh, and the very strange-looking women that seemed to occupy it. Resting one hand on his sword hilt, Ben lifted the brim of his hat with the other, looking at the strange "witches".

"Howdy," was all he said.
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Unread 29th of May, 2006, 23:48
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The priest had left somewhat in a hurry, albeit a good natured one, his willingness to help as evident as his unsettingly direct gaze.

Without really knowing how, Maeko had found herself acting as the nuns' intermediary with the locals.
You speak their language better, Sister, had said the prioress, and have come to know the barbarians' behaviour...
Sometimes, when her thoughts strayed from the work at hand, Maeko still wondered if the older nun had meant this as a compliment, ...or a reproach.
In any case, she had gotten used to the task and so, when the stranger entered the camp, she nodded to Sister Fuyin to take her place at the cooking-fire and approached him.

He moved purposefully, with a firm, powerful stride wich somehow reminded Maeko of Cadrius and Paladin: he had been likely trained as a warrior, then, and from his stance and the way his hand rested on his sword hilt, one expecting trouble, and making abundantly clear he was no easy prey.

Why someone would feel the need for such a statement in a camp of Botahist nuns totally escaped her...
At her approach he spoke : "Howdy" and waited, as if expecting an answer, the word itself meant nothing to Maeko, but, judjing from the tone, it was likely to be a greeting, so she bowed to the stranger as to a guest.

"Welcome to our camp", she said, " how can we help you?"
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Unread 11th of July, 2006, 05:10
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Ben stayed for another hour or so at the camp, talking with the woman who called herself Maeko. Despite the odd way they all dressed, and some confusion on a few words, these women didn't seem strange to him at all. Of course he had been here and there over the past few years, so that possibly meant he had simply gotten used to different cultures. And that seemed to be what all these women were, simply people from a different culture than the ones who lived here.

"Well," Ben said as he rose from his sitting position. "I think I've wasted enough of your time. Just a little misunderstanding here, so I'll just be moving on then."

And with just that the warrior hefted his backpack, turned around, and walked away.
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Unread 16th of July, 2006, 03:18
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The sisters were on the move.
It didn't take long to struck their camp, travelling light had some distinct advantages, so, after the priest had come back with his news, they were ready to go after a few hours.

"The names you said, sister" he had told Maeko, that morning " 'Botahara', 'Jade Peak' struck a bell for me,...sounded familiar', he amended at her confused look.
"I knew I had heard them before, but couldn't remember where, now I know. May I speak with your prioress?".

It came out that the priest, Jaylon was his name, had worked as a caravan guard 'in his previous life' as he put it, and at one time had worked for a foreign merchant. " One who came from the whereabouts of Jade Peak, by the name of Harayama Akira. We kept in touch for a few years, last I know he had settled in a city north-west of here, managing a branch of his father's merchant house".
Jaylon stopped, enjoying the effect of his news. He wasn't disappointed, to Maeko's eyes the prioress had to struggle visibily to mantain her composure.
The Harayamas were well known for their piety, and the generosity of their patronage to the order, to find one so near, after having considered themselves lost in a foreign world was cause for joy indeed.

" I cannot guarantee he'll still be there" cautioned the priest, " but he was three years ago, and, if he has moved I think you'll be able to know where he went."

He gave them a map, and some money the sister weren't able to refuse, and then went back to the village, before they could even properly thank him.

" But you will remembered every day, as we chant the sutras in the presence of the Master, Jaylon the priest", thought Maeko, walking away from the clearing on the path he had showed them. " May you find enlightenment in this life".
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