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  • Class: {{esusrinfo_class423105}}
    Level: {{esusrinfo_level423105}}
    Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild423105}}

    #16
    Oof. This one was hard.

    Illipia had not spoken a word since Takeshi’s sacrifice. She did not even pray, for every time she knelt, clasped her hands and closed her eyes she could hear a dark whisper drown her prayers. Was she being led astray? Had her Goddess forsaken her knowing that she grieved over one mortal life?

    She had seen many deaths in her time on this world. But they were all faceless strangers. Mortals that she never had the chance nor the desire to know. Some may have told her their name at some point, but she never committed them to memory. She thought nothing of the corpses she stepped over in the ancient Elrian Kingdom or the savage lands to the south of Xin.

    But these men she knew. They were the first mortals she spent enough time to learn about them. She knew that Chandragupta was a hopeless romantic and would likely remain a bachelor for the rest of his life. Xheng Zian, for all his boisterous posturing, was a walking disaster when it came to cooking.

    And Haan… She held no special feelings towards the man, but she found his presence to be calming. She did not require his martial skills to guarantee her safety, she could take care of herself. Rather it was his quiet gaze that told you he was listening when you spoke to him and his blunt honesty that was delivered with deliberate words. He was true to himself, and it showed. She found some measure of comfort in that.

    And there was one more thing. “Lady Illipia. May I have a moment of your time?”

    “Of course, Sir Haan. How can I be of service?” The group had stopped to rest in a small cave on the mountain.

    He set down his weapons and sat on the ground, beckoning her to sit with him. She obliged and sat down next to him, barely an arm’s length away. “Are you alright?”

    Illipia looked at the stony ground. “... I’m unharmed, Sir Haan. And the climb hasn’t been too difficult. At our current pace, we will reach your village by tomorrow.”

    Haan gave her a hard look. “... You haven’t spoken a word since-”

    “Please… Sir Haan. I’m alright.” She did not want to hear it. Just the mere mention of that event would summon those dark whispers.

    “Lady Illipia, forgive my persistence, but you are not alright. A shadow hangs over you, I can feel it.”

    She shook her head. “No, I am uninjured and rested. Let us continue our climb.” She made to stand, but a firm hand grabbed her wrist. It was a strong grip, but not painful.

    “Please, a few more moments.” She sat back down and he released her wrist.. “I do not wish to presume. Tell me, what troubles you, Lady Illipia?”

    The whispers began to hiss. “... Death, Sir Haan.”

    “I see. Takeshi’s death?”

    The whispers grew louder. “... Yes.”

    “Do you grieve for him, Lady Illipia?”

    “I…” She could not grieve for a mortal life after seeing so many pass. But this one life, Takeshi’s life, felt precious, making the loss far more painful than she imagined it would be. “I have seen death in my prior travels. Everywhere. But it never made me feel so… afraid before.”

    Haan looked at her. “Afraid? Do you fear death, Lady Illipia?”

    She met his gaze. “... No. Not as one like you would anyways.”

    He narrowed his eyes in confusion. “ I don’t follow.”

    Illipia took a deep breath. The whispers were louder now, and she began feeling irritated. She felt her grasp on her facade slip. “Must I explain this to you, Sir Haan?” she said sharply. “I fear not my own death. I fear for yours. And Chandragupta’s. And Xheng Zian’s.” She began to shout. “I am not like you! I love life! I love the light! Death should not come for life! Even if life shines brighter against it, I hate death! Why did he have to die like that!?”

    Chandragupta and Xheng Zian stared at Illipia, surprised. Haan said nothing. And then his hand reached for her shoulder and gripped it gently. “Lady Illipia, what you just said tells me you are more like us than you think.” She looked at him, confused. “We too fear for the lives of our friends. We would fear for the death of others we do not know as well. But what would that accomplish?” He gave her shoulder a small squeeze. “Fear drives us to do both the incredible and the terrible. It can be dangerous to always live in fear. To fear for the death of all is to fear life. To fear for the death of those you love is to cherish what time you have with them.”

    Haan looked to the other warriors and they smiled. “We are but small men in this large world. We can fight to change what we can, and we understand that there is much we cannot do. But if we were to lament on how small we are we cannot touch the lives of those closest to us. Death gives our lives meaning. Fear drives us to live our lives as best we can for those we love, so that when our time comes we need not be afraid anymore.”

    He moved his hand to her opposite shoulder and pulled her into a small embrace. “Alone, fear only grows fear. Together, fear cultivates courage. If we live our lives for one another, we shall stand against that fear of death when it comes. We are brave because we are afraid. And if you are afraid, Lady Illipia...”

    “... I must be brave,” she finished. The whisper, at last, faded. She heaved a relieved sigh. “Thank you, Sir Haan.”

    “Of course, Lady Illipia.” He released her and stood. He offered his hand to her. This was the other thing she liked about this man. He was attentive and prepared to lend whatever assistance he could when it was needed. His words, even the blasphemous ones, had enriched her perspective.

    She took his hand and began to realize something. She was more like these mortals than she believed. All this time, she saw herself as more than them. But it was that eternal life that blinded her to what life, perhaps, truly was. For all her worship of life and light, she had not truly lived.

    Because she never felt this ready to face down death. She never felt so ready to live.

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    • Class: {{esusrinfo_class423412}}
      Level: {{esusrinfo_level423412}}
      Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild423412}}

      #17
      We made it to Fahrmann! Yay!
      The party reached Fahrmann Village at last. While Shisui’s ‘mudhole’ comment was certainly rude, this village was a far cry from the splendor of the valley. The homes were modest, made from wood and stone and there were sakura trees scattered about the village. But there was a distinct scent of cherry blossoms and crisp, mountain moisture in the air that seemed to energize the party’s tired legs.

      Haan led the way. “Welcome to my home. Let me introduce you to everyone.” The villagers were at first wary of the visitors but quickly rushed out to meet them once they recognized Haan was among them.

      Every single one stared at Illipia. She was unlike anything they had seen before with her blond hair that seemed to glow azure. Her pale skin, her bright clothes, everything about her was exotic and mysterious to them. She was used to these gazes. She had endured them as she traveled through the valley to see the Emperor. But she never paid them mind.

      Now, she watched their faces, noting the wonder in their expressions, the young ones especially.The children were entranced by her. She smiled and beckoned to a young girl in the back. The child walked up to her slowly and looked at the priestess’ face, awestruck. “What is your name, child?” Illipia asked kneeling down..

      The child’s mouth fell open. Illipia could see her thoughts through her eyes. She can talk?! The little girl stuttered. “U-U-Um… M-M-M-My-My name is… Xianghua…”

      “Xianghua? That is such a lovely name. My name is Illipia.” Xianghua was enthralled by Illipia. Out of all the curious children that surrounded her, she had been picked out to give the beautiful foreigner her name.

      Illipia noticed Xianghua shifted her gaze to her cross. The ornate, white cross emblazoned on the silver pendant was yet another foreign wonder to her. Illipia saw two small twigs and a short length of twine at her feet. She picked them up and under Xianghua’s wide gaze she tied the two twigs together into the shape of a cross. Illipia smiled and held out the handmade cross to the young girl. “This is for you.”

      Xianghua took the gift gently and cradled it in her hands. She looked at her new cross and then back up to Illipia. “What is it?”

      Illipia cupped her hands around Xianghua’s. “This is a cross. If you hold it close and pray, someone will hear your wishes.”

      Xianghua eyes lit up. “Really?! Someone like Drabaki?”

      Illipia’s mood instantly soured, but she held her smile. She had forgotten that these people worshipped the serpent still. They had yet to hear of their mission to kill the beast. But she couldn’t bring herself to say it to this child. “Yes, someone like Drabaki.” She stood. “Keep it safe, Xianghua. May your light shine bright.” Xianghua was speechless. The little girl nodded and quickly ran back to the other children where they all asked to see her gift.

      She heard Haan call for her. “Illipia.” She turned to face him. He and the others looked ready to move on from the gathering. “My home is past the sakura trees. We will be resting there for our stay here. Join us.”

      “Of course, Sir Haan.” As she walked over to them, she overheard some whispers. Many were curious as to her relationship to the warrior. She considered it a fair curiosity, but chose to ignore them.

      The party ascended a set of stone steps that climbed to another level of the village. As they stepped off the stairs, they were greeted by the sight of a modest temple and attached home, as well as a beautiful young woman with long black hair.

      She bowed to the party. “Greetings, you must be Haan’s friends. I am Chunhua.”

      Xheng Zian stroked his chin. “Oho… You really caught yourself a fine woman, Haan.” Haan blushed.

      Chunhua looked to Illipia. “Do forgive me, but are you a foreigner?”

      Illipia bowed back to her. “Yes. I come from a land far beyond Xin on an important mission.”

      Chunhua looked concerned. “Mission? What mission?” She looked to her beloved who stepped forward.

      “Let us discuss this inside. My friends are tired and need rest. I’ll explain everything then.” He gently took her hands into his.

      Chunhua smiled and leaned into him. “Very well, my love.” She beckoned to the rest. “Please, come inside. I’ll prepare tea and futons. Stay as long as you need.”

      The others bowed graciously and thanked her for the hospitality. Before Illipia stepped over the threshold, she paused and looked down upon the village. She watched the people, looking for something; Something to justify what she came to this land to do.

      But she couldn’t see it. Not from here. She stepped over the threshold into Haan’s home.

      She couldn’t see the despair to justify taking these people’s god from them.
      I want to apologize for the delay with this update. Something potentially exciting came up over these past couple of days and may updates may slow because of it. For now, I will continue to try and give you daily updates. More to come!

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      • Class: {{esusrinfo_class424166}}
        Level: {{esusrinfo_level424166}}
        Guild Name: {{esusrinfo_guild424166}}

        #18
        So sorry for the delay!
        The party now rested in Haan’s modest home. After a warm and hearty meal and warm tea the Xin residents moved to the adjacent temple to meditate, leaving Illipia alone in the dining room. She looked at the bare walls of Haan’s home, questions abound in her mind.

        Her Goddess had told her that the great serpent, Drabaki, held in it a terrible wish. A wish to ascend and obtain the divine powers to raze Xin to the ground. The monster was evil, not benevolent. Its kindness was a lie. Its wisdom was malevolent.

        Its heart was dark.

        That was the truth as her Goddess saw it. And Illipia believed in this. So why was she hesitant in the face of these people? Her mission was to free the land of Xin from the hidden machinations of a terrible beast the native people believed their god. She was the righteous one. The one in the right.

        So why was she still hesitant? The faces of the villagers flashed through her mind. Their joy, curiosity, their courtesy, all of it she remembered. Lives built on a lie. When she succeeded in her mission and Drabaki was slain, would their faces change?

        It was at this moment the others returned from their meditations. The men were exhausted and retired to their rooms to rest. She bade them good night and moved to the porch where she sat, staring at the stars.

        She had to steel herself, for tomorrow they would begin their final ascent to the peak where Drabaki meditated. She could not afford to hesitate now! And yet…

        “Lady Illipia?” She turned to face Chunhua. She must have just seen Haan to bed.

        Illipia smiled softly. “Yes, Lady Chunhua?”

        Chunhua shook her head. “Please, call me Chunhua. Forgive me, but I am not very used to being spoken to so formally.” She let out a nervous giggle.

        “Of course, La- Excuse me. Chunhua, then. And please, call me Illipia. I hear enough formality from your betrothed”

        She giggled with a dusting of rose on her cheeks. “Very well, Illipia. May I join you?”

        Illipia slid over to make room. “Of course.”

        “Thank you.” The Xin woman sat herself down next to the priestess. The two women sat in silence for a moment. “May I ask something of you, Illipia?”

        “Of course.”

        Chunhua looked to the stars. “What land do you hail from? Even without Haan telling me, I can tell you are not of Xin.”

        Illipia toyed with her explanations silently. “I come from across the ocean to the west.”

        Chunhua looked at the Illipia with wide eyes. “Across the sea? You’ve traveled far to reach our land. What is your home like?”

        Illipia hesitated for a moment. She had, in truth, not seen her true home in… well, a long time. She could barely remember it. She hailed from the plane that her Goddess inhabited, but since her creation she had not once returned save for the rare occasion for consultation. The only part of her home she could remember was the golden throne and the immediate space it sat in. Not that would tell the mortal her true origins anyways.

        “My home is a small abbey hidden in the hills. If you look out the window in the tower you can see over the hills and watch the plains sway in the wind. It is like seeing an ocean of grass.”

        Chunhua was enraptured by the story. She had probably rarely, if ever, left the mountain. To hear of a place like that must be like hearing someone explain a dream to her. “It sounds like a beautiful place.”

        “It is. And this land is beautiful, as well. I’m not terribly used to climbing mountains, but I must say it feels wonderful to conquer these peaks.”

        Chunhua giggled. “Yes. Many of us have speed climbing competitions. Haan said you were quite capable of climbing though.”

        Illipia laughed. “Even with his approval, I doubt I will be attempting such a competition anytime soon.”

        “It isn’t for everyone, that is certain. I much prefer to keep my feet on the ground.” They laughed and then fell silent again.

        Illipia broke it this time. “May ask something of you, as well, Chunhua?”

        “Please.”

        Illipia’s gaze flitted to the village below. “... Do… Do you love the Great Serpent, Drabaki?”

        Chunhua gave her a curious look. “Yes, as does everyone in this village. Why do you ask?”

        “... I… My faith is not the same as yours. I worship a goddess not of our plane.” Illipia looked at the Xin woman. “I… find it hard to believe that a mortal creature could have the same intentions of a god.”

        Chunhua broke eye contact and her gaze shifted to the ground. “... I think I can understand that stance. May I ask what your faith entails, Illipia?”

        Illipia felt a tiny surge of excitement well up inside her. “Of course!” She set her hand on her pendant. “I follow the faith of the Goddess, Ishmael, the creator of this world.”

        Chunhua let out an impressed breath. “Oh? She created the world?”

        Illipia nodded. “Yes. It was her wish to see life flourish and the El granted her this by creating the world, Elrios.”

        “Is that what the world outside is called?”

        “Yes. It is a wonderful place, filled with people like me and even more unlike me.”

        Chunhua was enjoying the story very much, but she shook her head. “Forgive me, Ilipia. I took us on a tangent.”

        Illipia giggled. “It’s all right, Chunhua. Anyways, my Goddess was the one responsible for bringing Elrios to life. But…” Her voice lowered. “Not all is perfect. Death and darkness are my Goddess’ foes, and she desires to see life and light to shine eternal. But her will is not enough for this. So she asks her followers to pray for the darkness to one day fall to the light, so that we may all know love and happiness free from fear.”

        Chunhua was silent for a few moments. She was the first one Illipia had shared this much about her own religion, too. Not even the men she traveled with were told this much as they never openly asked.

        Chunhua’s gaze met Illipia’s. “Illipia, I see that your faith is one that desires for all to be happy. I do see this. But…” Illipia forced herself to not frown. “I can’t help but feel that it is… antagonistic.”

        Had these words been spoken to the Celestial before she came to this land, she would have smote the mouth that spoke them on the spot. But now, doubt stayed her hand. Instead, she said, “Antagonistic? How do you figure that, Chunhua?” The words lacked venom, but were still sharp.

        Chunhua flinched slightly at them. “Well, for all that your faith claims to promote love and happiness it yet asks for you and its followers to wish for the unmaking of concepts that do not align with it. Forgive me, Illipia, but it… just doesn’t sound right.”

        Illipia relaxed her jaw. She didn’t realize she had set it.

        She didn’t immediately answer. Hearing this opinion on her faith, the very thing that empowered her for so long, was… jarring. When Chunhua put it that way, it made sense objectively. For her to worship life and light by cursing death and darkness was contradictory. Life and light as concepts were loving and tolerant, and yet her Goddess demanded that those that followed her to be hateful and intolerant, even if it was towards only specific ideas.

        She finally formed a response. “... I… I have never… thought of it like that, Chunhua. I hope this doesn’t make you think any less of me.”

        Chunhua shook her head. “Not at all, Illipia. I have only known you briefly, but I can see a heart in you much like our Great Serpent: kind and compassionate.”

        Illipia looked at the Xin woman, surprise and relief in her gaze. “... Do you… really mean that?”

        “Yes. I do. The way you walk, the way you look at the people, the way Haan has spoken of you, all of it tells me you are a truly good person. I won’t say you follow the wrong path. You simply follow one that you must believe is right. And that is nothing but incredible, Illipia.”

        Illipia felt a warmth grow in her chest. Even if she didn’t agree with her core values, Chunhua still saw her as a person truly good. As someone she could trust.

        She giggled. “I can see why Sir Haan is so taken with you, Chunhua. He is truly blessed to have someone like you in his life.”

        Chunhua blushed. “Ah… Thank you, Illipia.” She then stood and bowed. “Thank you again for indulging me, Illipia. I must be off to bed. You should get some rest as well.”

        “I will. Thank you, Chunhua. May your light shine bright.”

        “And yours, Illipia. Good night.” Chunhua finally left the Celestial alone. She looked back to the sky to think more on their conversation, but she beheld approaching storm clouds. She had enough time to fully rest before they would arrive.

        But her doubts would have to wait.
        Last edited by GirgeFE-solace-; Yesterday, 09:09 PM.

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