The Origin Stones

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Chapter 10 - What I'm made For

He had taken longer to get back than expected and he seemed more annoyed than usual. Shinyaki ran his hand across his dark red hair.

“It cost that much more?”

“Most everything I had,” he spoke, using his usual impatient demeanor. “Couldn’t be helped. We had to use the thief’s guild. There was no other way.”

“Yes, well, still. It couldn’t have hurt to negotiate?”

“You only think like that because you are not aware of what happened to them. He was killed by his very next appointment.” The bull avoided eye contact, he was obviously hiding some small detail.

“Are they a problem?”

“No,” the bull assured him, perfectly aware of how bad that would be, “no, nobody knows.”

He felt it, then. A belligerent will seeping into the air, a strong desire to crack his spine and break his jaw. The bull felt it too. In fact, many people in the tavern felt it, as all eyes turned towards the door. And there, three figures stood, shadows inside overcoats drenched in rainwater. One was red, one green and the third was black.

That’s what most saw but his eyes were keener.

He saw the grey glow of a Jun’s eyes under the green hood, the mouse tail pushing against the red coat, and felt the life energy of a Rag Doll from under the black one. He had created some rag dolls in his day so he could tell. He also saw the bull shiver as his annoyance level went up a notch. It revealed the fact he knew them.

He also noticed that the bartender, a Pan, was the only one there who was nearly as keen. His eyes were as quick to change from puzzlement to curiosity as his own.

The one in red pulled down the hood, looking directly at the bull. “We’ve got some unfinished business, Old Bull!”

The others pulled down their hoods and he knew he was, yet again, right on the mark. The one in red was a mouse Lan, specialist pugilist, he could tell. Despite her apparent uncontrolled emotional state, belligerent, her weight distribution made her stance perfectly balanced.

The Rag Doll had a sword, two handed, but not heavy enough to be a marauder, so that meant gladiator. Jack of all trades as far as warriors went, master of none.

The Jun was a mere child and was smiling goofily, ripe to be underestimated. It wouldn’t, however, he himself had taken his first life barely out of his mother’s bosom. What he looked like revealed nothing relevant, only his weapon gave any worthwhile indication. The saw fooled no one, he was marauder.

It was hard to assess their strength, both individual as well as a group, most of all the Jun, but the first thing he needed to know was what they wanted from his ally.

He smiled, courteous.

“What an odd party of adventurers,” he opened his arms to try and prevent immediate conflict. It caused them to waver somewhat, they didn’t expect a polite greeting. “You know them, Agathon?”

“Yes,” the bull replied. “One of them.”

“Well then, what is the nature of this unfinished business?”

“Whatever it is,” the bartender’s voice roared out, “finish it outside.”

Jomiko was quick to interject, gesturing at the bartender “no need. We just want our money.”

“I do not have your money, you idiotic infants,” Agathon pointed out, impatiently.

“Oh,” Jomiko reacted just before grinning. “Then yeah, let’s step outside...”

She turned and left, followed by her two teammates. He watched them go a bit puzzled. He looked at Agathon with a raised eyebrow but the big man just sighed and grumbled, standing up.

“Well,” he pulled the chair from under him, also standing up. “I guess I could use a workout.”

Once outside, Kazuki let Jomiko know he had already contacted Arata.

“How long ’till he gets here?” Sanpu asked.

“Too long, we’re on our own.”

“That’s fine by me,” Jomiko stated, crossing her arms.

They had walked out to the middle of the square, turned around and stood. The rain was heavy on their overcoats, it pounded their heads, but it wasn’t bothering her anymore. Her focus was pulled on the beatdown that was coming.

Out came the bull and the Jun.

She now noticed the Jun didn’t actually have two staffs, but two scythes. The blades were as low as his kneecaps, and they pointed backwards, they had been hidden behind the table from their point of view at the entrance. She was getting the vibe he was the leader, but maybe that was because he was the one talking.

“Well, how dramatic,” the jun jested, before bowing, “my name is Shinyaki, and I represent my and Agathon’s employer. What seems to be the problem, exactly?”

“Old man Agathon there hired me and my companions to take down a huge beast that was plaguing some dried up Savannah, down west. But he never paid us.”

“I see,” Shinyaki nodded, “quite so, but Agathon does not have any money so how do you propose we fix this issue?”

“Fairgrifen has issued a bounty on him,” Kazuki pointed out. He wanted to speak if only to shake off the unease he was feeling. Shinyaki’s presence and posture was having an odd effect on him. “We mean to collect it.”

“I see. Well, that much is fair.” Agathon looked to Shinyaki in reaction, partly confused.

“We want to avoid a scene. Time’s not ripe to go about making trouble, remember, Agathon? Give me the stone and surrender yourself to them.” He gave him a smile.

Agathon sniffed and looked around, considering his position. Eventually, he drew the shining yellow piece of rock, the size of his fist, and held it out for Shinyaki to grab it.

“Actually,” Sanpu lifted a finger, “we’re taking that stone too.”

Shinyaki turned his eyes at him curiously. He put the stone in some inside pocket, he was wearing a kind of robe that was sleeveless. And scoffed.

“No, you’re not.”

“I was hired to retrieve it,” Sanpu stated casually.

“My friend,” Shinyaki warned him but really all three of them, “go back empty handed or don’t go back at all. The stone comes with me.”

Sanpu’s eyes suddenly squinted in anger. His lips widened into a famished grin as he practically growled out, “well now you’re just sparking my interest!” He drew his saw.

Kazuki drew his own sword but he was doubtful they stood any kind of a real chance. The bull was powerful enough to match them so if he shied away from confronting Shinyaki, ready to give himself up, they definetely shouldn’t fight.

“Jomiko?!”

“Normally, I’d tell Sanpu to try his luck some other day, or alone. But after making me cross half o’ this deserted heat-stroking island? After making me starve and thirst? After trying to kill Arata?!? Any excuse to lay down a solid beating’s good enough for me!”

“Jomiko, think about this,” Kazuki urged. “You didn’t face the bull, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“Listen to the doll, Jomiko” Shinyaki asked.

“Ohhhh,” Jomiko closed her fists tight and while she was not assuming a fighting, her tone and head-shaking indicated she was insulted past the point of not return. “I don’t care what you want the stone for - I’d break it over your head if Sanpu didn’t want it. But you’re crossing all kinds of lines with every word you say, man.” She stretched out her arm and pointed down with her thumb. “You’re going down”.

“Heh,” Shinyaki shook his head, helpless. “Youth…just tripping yourselves up some levels you’re just not prepared to handle. Your recklessness is just mind boggling.”

“Tell me about it,” Agathon agreed.

“Very well,” Shinyaki shrugged, looking down with eyes closed and relaxed, his hands lazily reaching up to grab his scythes. “So be it.”

Then the rain stopped.

Not all of it, though, just in the vicinity of the clash of blades that packed such a kinetic shockwave Jomiko felt it against her cheeks as if it was a strong wind. It pushed back the rain away from the point of impact, which was a foot from her face.

Jomiko had seen Shinyaki burst out of his stance with amazing speed. He had drawn his scythes in one downward motion, cutting the very air to bring them down on her.

But Sanpu and Kazuki reacted like pros, immediately swinging their swords horizontally, crossing blades, to intercept the oncoming foe. Shinyaki, impressively, reacted to this. He brought the blades down in a tighter angle to catch the crossed swords and then let the force created by the inertia of his insanely swift rush work to push Kazuki and Sanpu’s blades back towards Jomiko.

He had probably expected their grip to falter, or their footing to loose, but none of that happened. Their feet slid through the wet stone floor towards a still standing, still idle Jomiko. She casually opened her hand who simply opened her hand to meet it. She brushed her palm against the crossed blades, providing the extra force to stop Shinyaki’s advance.

She made eye contact for half a second and then pushed her weight across her arm, thrusting the palm on the blades. Another mini shockwave pushed rain aside as the scythes were pushed up, giving into Kazuki and Sanpu’s swings which got kickstarted by the thrust.

The scythes were too long, though, so the reach of their blades didn’t reach Shinyaki and instead cut little else than air and raindrops.

It still surprised Shinyaki, however. He obviously expected them all to be dead already.

“Wh--”

Jomiko stepped forward with a push of her back foot, cutting in-between the swing blades, that had opened, and under the scythes, which had been pushed up, all while closing her palm into a fist. She glided for a few inches, slid with her front foot for the rest and drove her weight into the punch along with a muscle-assisted chained whiplash effect to the arm.

Another small shockwave sounded out as Shinyaki took the punch on a bare chest and was projected across the air, with naught but a slight grunt of surprise.

His back crashed against a wall, of the pub, shattering its outer layer where he had collided. But he bounced off and landed on his feet and then stepped forward and halted like nothing had happened. He wasn’t even out of breath.

“Well, gotta say Agathon, you got an eye for hirelings.”

“I had to be sure they could slay the beast, we are on a timetable.”

“Hold your lips, Agathon,” the man grabbed his robe and pulled it off, throwing it aside. “and work your powers instead. I want this wrapped up quickly, we have a boat to catch.”

Shinyaki was dressed in a blue one-piece custom-made dress, full of adorned patterns and symbols. It covered everything, save his face, and arms.

“You handle tall n’ handsome there,” Jomiko told them, throwing her cloak aside too. They followed her lead and did the same while she added: “I’ll handle Mr. wall destroyer over here.”

Despite it all, Jomiko did have a good sense of battle tactics. It was strategy that was beyond her, it was a bad strategy to be fighting, but that split made sense. Kazuki nodded in agreement and gave her but a warning: “Remember he has speed.”

He was referring to the spell, Arata could also cast it, and had to chase him.

“Pff, please,” she scoffed, parting to the left, “that’s my normal speed.”

Sanpu and Kazuki stepped to the right, establishing themselves as Shinyaky’s foes. He opened his arms, stretching the scythes out to intimidate them.

“Sanpu, any ideas on how best to--”

“YOU TALK TOO MUCH!” Sanpu dashed, clearly charging Shinyaki.

Kazuki himself almost spat out a heavy breath, exasperated. “Damn it.” He ran off after him.

Meanwhile, Jomiko cracked her neck for comfort, enjoying the rain on her fur now that her body was warmed up. It felt fresh and rampant. Like her.

She licked her lips and watched as the bull took off his cloak. His thick gray fur, along with his black eyes, and horns, were pretty intimidating. He would be the kind of Lan to be a marauder or a burlier pugilist. His shoulders were as wide as his chest, his legs strong and muscled. His limbs were twice as wide as hers.

He would look intimidating if he were actually a fighter. But Kazuki and Arata’s testimony had made it obvious, he was a caster.

“You picked an odd specialty, old man. What made you turn to coward’s tricks when you were clearly gifted to fight?”

“What made you turn to fighting when you’re clearly not made for it?” He asked in return, devoid of a sense of humor.

Jomiko laughed, though. She was always in a good mood before a good fight. She could finally lay into that old liar.

She waved her head around, slowly, breathing in the air through the nose. Then, abruptly in a swift instant, she took a fighting position. Her body shook into perfect steadiness so brusquely and firmly that she shook water off of her.

She looked at the bull with widened eyes, becoming aware of her surroundings. She enhanced her senses, added peripheral vision to her main focal input, and then breathed out. Her body began to breathe again, to oscilate with her environment.

“Lemme show you exactly what I’m made for.”

She charged.

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