Showdown at the Autumn Lotus
He strode past the gates, and up the stoney steps like he owned the place.
Wine bottle on hand, contemptuous smile on his face, a mature young man’s face, peeking through feathery black bangs, amber eyes reflecting the wisdom glinting on the fiery script in his black crystal bracers, and lit up with a humor as if barely containing the rakish glee of a hellion.
The boy at the stairs tried to stop them. So young, so dumb in his defense of the temple. So much like he had been once. So easily shoved aside. He was still alive, of course – it would just hurt in the morning. Seven Leaf Sorrow and his entourage were not there to cause any deaths – not unless they asked for it, that is. As soon as the steps ended, they saw the great patium of the academy – full of monks in training all around, the cadences of their mantras clinging to the air like prayers in a full cathedral. Seven Leaf Sorrow grinned – exactly what he wanted. His own students stood aside, as he prepared to speak.
“Students of the Autumn Lotus school! My name is Seven Leaf Sorrow.” He said, parting his black hair to reveal his caste mark – a golden sunburst, sharp edges shooting out of a golden disc. He meant bussiness. And they would know one of the swords of heaven was there for them. “I have come to challenge your mistress to a duel, for I desire to test the mettle of the famous Rose Ivory. If she accepts my challenge, you will see a duel such as you have never witnessed before... and might not witness ever again. Shall he decline, I regret that I will have to burn your school to the ground. I promise I shall try not to kill any of you who oppose me then.”
His words entranced them, with danger, outrage... and awe, even. They dared not move until he was finished. But as soon as he was, one of the two Dragon-Blooded among the students moved towards Seven Leaf Sorrow, intending to kill the dark-haired stranger for his insolence. Black vines swirled around the dragon, and dark emerald hues flickered towards Seven Leaf Sorrow...
...who never moved an inch, even as he saw the strike coming.
Before it could connect, the Dragonling was lost in white mists. Nine fox’s tails stopped his strikes, bapping them aside, flowing like hair, deflecting like blades, and suddenly the Solar was not where the strike aimed to anymore... even though to the naked eye, neither the Dragon-Blooded nor the Solar had changed their positions.
The white haze fading, she stood there – a priestess beautiful as the sundawn, hair clear as the fight sunlight, eyes clear like the green fields under its faint gold. She had ears and many tails of a fox, and a smile in joy as she held the dragonling’s hand. “That is not nice...” She said simply, the smile never fading. As if she cared for her opponent so... and at the same time, in utter confidence, mocking the Dragon-Blooded’s lack of ability... and yet, in a way that was not even disrespectful...
The Sword is worn out . She carries a Withered Flower . She is Unshod . And thus was the image of Rose Ivory as she walked out of the temple, withered flowers forming the bracers on her arms. She moved rose-tinted bangs out of her face, and snorted. “And this is the man who comes to challenge me? One unable to even defend himself?”
Seven Leaf Sorrow grinned in turn.
This was going to be fun . “So, I finally meet Rose Ivory, who is said to part the skies with her blade, and sever fate and souls with it, whose kiss was the death of many a king! ... I will say that I am impressed. At least, for your beauty, if not your discipline. As for my slave... she is my bodyguard, and that is her du - -“
“Slave?!?” The fox-priestess snarls, turning, leaving the dragonling to fall, all balance lost to him. The nerve , she thought. She was one of the Nine Companions, and could rescind her contract with him at any time! "How many times do I have to say it?!? 'Concubine ! Bodyguard ! 'Servant ! But no –“
But before she could finish her words or thoughts, his arm went around her waist, pushing her to him, his whisper urgent and rispid in her big fox ears “Not now !”
Rose Ivory laughed, an open mockery.
“Oh, this keeps getting better. You cannot control your whore or your libido, and intend to fight one who controls her own spirit? And for a moment, I was worried...” Rose Ivory begun to walk down the stairs, lazily, picking her blade from a page’s hand, and pointing it to Seven Leaf Sorrow. Under the sunlight, it gleamed in all colors of the rainbow, holding the violet longer than any, while it flapped – however, its lightness said nothing for its sharpness. “Very well, anathema... on behalf of my school, I accept your challenge and your empty threats. Come.”
She made a sign in the air – a cross, and then a tail, the lesser sign of Saturn. It stayed on the air for a moment, as she became the end. She adopted its face, a short kata making her into it. In turn, Sorrow discarded his bodyguard, leaving the bottle of wine on her right hand, “You can make me regret this later. For now... enjoy the show, Gin.” He whispered as he begun to walk... and he did so like a god walking over the starlit sky. Stars begun to appear all around him, as he darkened... the stars frozen in the air like cold jewels. Then, with a bright glow of his caste mark, the sun rose, setting the stars aflame, as a crystals of life all around him. Moving in an arc to the side of the temple, towards the woods, he motioned for her to follow.
And so she did.
They walked down the steps as the autumn leaves fell all around both – careful steps towards a pond, as rings of golden light calibrated with angular glyphs appeared around him... and as her hands and blade suffused themselves in crimson light. And then... as he arched around her... he struck the first blow.
Going through threads of fate woven around her, he struck, a fist directly to her.. air, as she swatted him around with no effort, and proceeded to metodically strike at all his vital points... striking only at his many rings, as his hands swathed the blade away. He grinned.. and her lips curled in unhappyness. Even with the Blade of the Battle Maiden...
He jumped back... through the air... seeing how both his’and her students watched from atop the staircase, without violence. It was the master’s show, right now. He smiled, and fell effortlessly over the pond, his feet standing above the placid water with but a slight disturbance in it.
Both said, at once.
He stood there, watching her... as she did the same. “Not going to come and get me?”
“Are you not the challenger?” She said, a clear counterpoint to his mirth. “If you wish to run back, there is still time. Those who fight with me to the end are consecrated to Saturn. I would hope such a master would know when to back off.”
“And I do.” He answered simply, forming a arc on the water, as he struck at her again... once, to the head. Twice, to the stomach. Thrice, to the chest.
And once again, she swatted him away, effortlessly, and before he could move back, struck at him... once, at his neck, but he held the blade. Twice, at his wrists, but his rings of light were on the way. And thrice, to his heart... and it drew a line across his chest, droplets of red tainting the pond, the koi stirrind underneath his feet.
“I would appreciate if you moved away from it. It is not time for their lunch.”
“Oh, I am leaving soon...” He said, mantaining his mirth. He saw something as she moved... understood one thing. It was effortless. Too effortless... he realised, as he kicked the water from the pond, and up to the air... walking in arcs up the droplets, riding a rainbow of glittering droplets towards her. “As soon as I see all we are capable of!”
He was everywhere then. Flickering like Moonsilver, he was all around her, and where one of the droplets would strike, he was standing atop of it, as numreous as the droplets, his many strikes... many strikes, for only one defense of hers’.
She cursed inwardly, as fate closed on to her.
Did he know? How he had drawn this out... how he struck her so many times...
Not that she would have run, even before. Her manse, her home in Creation...
She tried impeding the flow of droplets, but they were too many, and she had to stop before she was to show herself in full glory... and lose all she had built. Not that it would gain her anything but a brief respite. If he kept at that.. he would win, either way. She fell on the defensive then, but the blows were still too many, from a figure she could only see flickering with waves of rising droplets.... and fist hit her stomach, making her mind flare in pain. And a sword-hand hit her wrist, making her drop her blade. And an open palm hit her chest, making her fall against a tree, breathless... defeated, but almost unhurt.
And finally she could see him again, standing tall in front of her, looking as casual as he could, still in mirth even as blood droplets still stained his shirt. Her pale rose eyes stared at him in rage and indignation, waiting for her final end... “What now, Solar?”
Was all she could ask before he pressed her against the tree, drawing her breathless lips into a kiss, his anima glowing all around her, dispelling Saturn’s cold glow with solar warmth. “Now” He said with a devilish grin, roughly pushing her kimono down her arm. “The fun really begins.”
At once, both groups of students averted their eyes,
They certainly would never forget what they had seen here today.