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Back in the Saddle

#1
As Taloc and Hayaidesu ride the horse through the clean arch of stone, an expansive realm opens up in front of them. For one moment, the scenery leaves Taloc in a state of shock as this realm had such a similar feel as his home. The moment passes quickly, however, and the differences begin standing out leaving him with a faint bout homesickness. With a quick shake of his head, Taloc dismisses the irrelevant feeling. Quickly looking around, he gets a feel of his surroundings. 

‘Temperate, mostly plains, no cloud cover. Footing is likely to be good. No easy ways to stalk targets though. Gonna have to take a different approach for any hunts. People, people, people. Generally a darker hair color with a variety of eye colors. Moderate height. Variety of clothing styles. Interesting dialect. Accent seems to fluctuate greatly…’

As the checklist runs through Taloc’s mind, groups of traders walk by happily discussing their profits from such and such resource from such and such duchy. The details didn’t matter to Taloc and were actively dismissed until a stray conversation draws in his attention. A small tidbit about a demon and some kind of castle attack was all he is able to gleam from it, but that was enough. Straining his senses, he closes his eyes and begins to reach out with his mind, following the words back to their source. With an ease that is almost surprising enough to knock him back out of his temporary trance, Taloc slides into the merchant’s mind.

A nameless fear revolving around a picture on a bulletin board stands predominately in their thoughts, and it's all they could seem to think about for some reason. Faint fragments of memory drifted in about growing up in a small town near the mentioned castle are dismissed as the location of the bulletin board sweeps them away. Pulling free from the merchant’s mind, Taloc turns the horse he and Hayaidesu were riding towards the board. 

“I’m not entirely sure how, but I just did something, Desu,” Taloc says softly, clearly meaning his words for the passenger on the horse and no one else. “It was almost like I entered into someone’s mind and pulled some information out.”

“Telepathy,” she says simply as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “What did you find out?”

Glancing over his shoulder at the brightly colored girl, Taloc raises an eyebrow at the apparent nonchalant attitude she displays over this new revelation he just had. Getting nothing out of the blank look she wears like a mask of her own, he merely shrugs and motions ahead of them, the bulletin board already coming into view. Even from this distance, it was obvious there were posters tacked up in a neat and official manner.

“There’s work to be had here,” Taloc says confidently. “Apparently, there’s a demon that attacked a castle the merchant grew up next to. I couldn’t get much more than that, so the location of the poster was a nice consolation prize.”

“You got directions then. To a place I was already taking you.” 

His shoulders droop half an inch, which is the only indication Desu would get that he even heard her. 

As they come up on the board, several posters with faces and descriptions were on display. It takes but a moment to find the poster in question. With a large WANTED plastered along the top of the page as well as a rough drawing of the person, demon, it was about as simple as it could be for a bounty poster. Taloc has seen a lot in his day, however, this one stands out as the most logical one the merchant had been worried about while walking away from it.

“Assault, murder, theft, release of prisoners. Pretty run of the mill. What do you think, Desu,” Taloc asks, not looking away from the bounty.

“Will it be a repeat of DA?”

“I don’t plan on letting this be a fair fight.”

“Then go for it.”

Reaching forward, Taloc takes the bounty from the board, staring at it a moment before speaking once more. “Tell me Desu, can you dance?”
In battle it is important to keep a sharp blade

But it is by far more important to keep a sharp mind.
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#2
In all his time with Hayaidesu, Taloc hasn’t ever asked a question quite like that. At least not one close enough to the stunning power that one held came to mind. It must have occurred to him that this was not a question she could answer with her voice alone because he turned to see the face she was giving him. She could feel the mild confusion as it knitted her brows. Without looking in a mirror she knew the question was written all over her face.

Of course, he had the added benefit of being able to read her surface thoughts, ‘Why?

“Should I… Uh. Take that as a ‘no’?” he asked, though it wasn’t clear if this was towards her frontal questioning of his actions or the heavy silence between them.

“I am proficient in geisha dance with a preference for fans, and some interpretational steps.” the colorfully dressed female said from the back end of the saddle. She was riding side saddle on the butt of the mount.

If the exact dance registered with him, Desu wouldn’t know. However, he must have come to an idea of what she meant regardless because she watched as a smirk slid into place on his lips.

He nodded affirmatively, “I have the perfect song for you then.”

These words would rattle off a few more times in her head as the man tucked the poster away into his gifted satchel - the one he fiddled with for about twenty minutes straight on the way here trying to make sure it was in an optimal place. While he grabbed the leather reins that connected to the bridle he gave the beast under them a tap with the back of his heels. She could hear the leather straining as the horse gently pushed forward. Her body began rocking to and fro gently as they started the next leg of their journey.

She withdrew into her own mind to consider the implications of all this. It has been a number of moons between the last time she danced, and yet she could still hear the oriental twang created by a mere three strings on the sanshin she learned her steps to. She couldn’t forget the shrill voice of the player as she harmonized with the bitter-sweet and sour notes she strummed. As well as the grating of it all… Also how little it ever mattered to her at a certain point.

About the point when she was selected by her prime, out of all the girls.

When she looked up their scenery had changed once again. It went from mostly plains with a few bushes and trees to a heavily wooded area with winding paths beaten in various degrees by many or few mounts which pass this area.

Despite the inability to sense or even see a fellow traveler between the foliage and woods, up ahead of their horse or behind them, she was met with the eerie feeling of being watched very closely. It was far too familiar to when she was caught in Taloc’s shadow. She looked around in the early-dip of the afternoon shadows and expected to see sharp almond-shaped eyes filled with the colors made of hellfire to be staring back at her from one of them.

“Hayaidesu? Did you hear me?” Taloc’s voice startled her from her search. He looked back to make sure she was paying attention this time. “We're going to be there in the next hour or so, so I want to stop in the next clearing to prepare.”

After he explained, she noticed he looked at her expectantly. So she just nodded to confirm she heard him that time, still looking a little out of it. This apparently satisfied the assassin prime because he turned back around in the saddle again and lead the creature on.

As planned, next sizable clearing they stopped. He waited for her to dismount before swinging his leg back around the horse and touching the solid ground below. By then, she was already on her way to a soft patch of grass where she sat down on her knees. A normal thing she just did. Taloc casually joined her, turning away from her to focus on his tasks but remained near just in the odd incident they were disturbed.

Each item he summoned took several minutes of concentration, of which he received total silence for from his companion. First was a makeup kit complete with brushes, pans full of pressed colored powders, inkwells of colored liquids and pastes that he was very familiar with, and various additions that would help in making him disguise himself.

Another object the prime decided he wanted to summon was a small harp that could fit in his lap. Obviously, this wasn’t typically the thing you imagined a stone-cold killer to be creating, let alone know how to play. Desu was positive the item was simply for show and that Taloc was possibly just showing off or even playing a prank of his own. That was up until she watched his fingers flutter along the strings like magic, forcing her to imagine them as the legs of a centipede crawling across the tight lines.

Her brow flicked into a high arch.

Either he just couldn’t help himself, or felt the need to get a quick practice in, but the ninja secondary bore witness alone to a small session of the assassin’s fingers plucking out a generous few chords. The air is instantly changed around her with the first strike. Immediately the peaceful natural sounds of the forest were silenced and pushed aside, then a dreamy fog consumed her mental canvas. She saw bubbles dancing a mythical waltz of the gods with names she’d never heard of before.

Just like that, it was gone. Desu was left blinking in disbelief. If he saw her, he didn’t let on. She watched him set aside the harp where it would go undisturbed for the rest of their stay until it was time to pack up and go. In the meantime, Taloc busied himself with another summon. This time it was a change of clothing for himself.

Apparently taking a page from her own book of flashy and brightly colored clothing, Taloc summoned a fashionably vibrant set of stage clothes.

The shirt was flamboyant in color and large in size. She would have never imagined him wearing it, let alone what it would eventually look like when he does don it. From the billowing thin fabric that made up the sleeves, to the impressive amount of buckles he’d have to endure to secure the placement of bits and pieces of the outfit. The pants were a dull eggshell color, and the boots fade even deeper into the background by being black. The only inkling of his old identifying features on this new clothing was an incredibly easy to miss floral pattern on the back of the shirt. With small bits of sapphires and topaz, he’s created an elaborately complicated design that also included the nine-petaled sigil she’d seen on his armor.

The sigil she vaguely knew the purpose.

The true shock, however, was the finished product. With the items in their place, every buckle notched securely and fished through the final loops, and the final piece is a dashing hat with an enormous feather Taloc looked roguishly handsome and completely the part of a wandering bard. The secondary took exceptional amusement from his exposed chest.

Not that it was especially comical for reasons other than it was about the second to last thing she’d expect him to do. The absolute last thing was obviously being his surprising ability to play the harp. He had an attractive and tasteful view that showed off his hairless upper body. To anyone who looked past the crisscrosses of his drawstrings, they would be met with a considerably seductive image. More impressive was how he was able to show so much skin while still concealing any defining scars. Of which he had many of.

Though his time with the makeup kit may have some hand in that. Hayaidesu watched him sit behind a smudgy looking-glass for at least an extra hour of preparations. With self-taught or class-taught tricks he’d undoubtedly picked up over his years, he’s managed a normally handsome face that wasn’t quite his own. She was hesitant to admit even to herself how impressed she was by all of this.

Then it was her turn.

The first outfit he summoned for her was fine in its own right. It was a natural partner color from the blue, being golden-orange. It was more silken robe than kimono as it wrapped casually around the body and was tied by a single strip of fabric. To be fair, it followed every detail she’d given him. Including her lack of descriptions…

She refused to wear it though.

“Just use your telepathy on me, I don’t know how to better describe this.” her voice hinted slightly at frustration. Unfortunately, Taloc wasn’t fully sure he could control it just, yet. He explained as much. She flashed back to when she was stepping in unison with him through his past, silently following in his shadow… Her eyes trained on him once more. “You’ll do fine.”

Poetic words of encouragement from the ever-sophisticated ninja with her cleary vast vocabulary.

Taloc sighed, took another deep breath, and began.

Quote:Post Count Word: 1,571; Characters: 8,664
Total Count Word: 2,269; Characters: 12,574
[Image: source.gif]
"Centurion: I'll leave you to your work then Dust. Thanks for chatting!
Me: no problem. stay awesome!
Centurion: It's more of a passive ability"
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#3
Taloc takes a deep breath and steps closer to Hayaidesu. Slowly, he reaches forward and places his hands on either side of her head and closes his eyes. Almost immediately, she feels the full weight of his mind surge forward and everything gets swept away as if she was trapped in his shadow once more. She faintly hears words, though from where she is, it seems like they are mumbled and incoherent. Her voice is also drowning out by a strange underwater sensation as she feels herself trying to ask him to speak up.

“DESU? CAN YOU HEAR ME?” 

The words thunder through the emptiness she finds herself in, leaving her to instinctively clap her hands to her ears, not that it does her much good. Luckily, he does appear to notice the reaction, because where the thundering boom of his thoughts were just moments before, a soft concern rolls through the connection. 

A nearly silent sigh drifts through the emptiness as if a gust of wind through a field and gentle sunlight starts shining out of nowhere. Within a matter of seconds, Desu watches as her nonexistent surroundings take shape into a lush and rolling plain. Shaping this plain of existence in her mind, the assassin urges it to take sharper detail as flowers sprout and bloom at her feet, clouds waft in on a breeze, and an unseen bird begins singing its trilling tune. Looking around, trying and failing to hide her awe, mostly due to the fact it's hard to hide thoughts from someone in your head, she almost misses the creator step in himself.

As Taloc steps up to Desu’s side, he looks around at the small space he made. “It’s not much, but it’s nearly effortless to maintain. Should make this process a bit easier as well. Ok! I need you to focus for me. Picture yourself in the dress. How it feels against your skin. How much it weighs, the colors and how they contrast, how the fabric would blow in the wind. Everything down to the most minute detail…”

‘Feels on my skin?’ Her thought echoes outward, much to her surprise. 

Realization sinks in a moment later and she focuses on the dress, trying to bring it into existence just as Taloc had the world around them. Reaching back into her memories, she pulls out one of her favorite kimonos, though the word favorite was certainly a stretch considering she only tolerated them by the end of her term with the instructors. As the kimono replaces her current clothing, Taloc moves closer to carefully inspect the workmanship. Rather quickly, he starts muttering to himself and his normally internal process is laid bare before her.

“Silk. Predominantly red and black with white and gold accents. Elegant certainly, but it seems extremely impractical. Most likely a traditional garb. No, my bet is ceremonial. Possibly used for funeral rites. If that were the case though, why would they have Desu wear one? Not a funeral then. With sleeves this long it would be rather easy to conceal a weapon at least. The way the fabric is arranged it would be hell to run in though. Should probably make a few edits then. Stockings to keep the color pallet. Can't reveal too much skin or it would break the feel of the garb…”

The monologue continues as a mannequin springs into existence a short ways off wearing an exact replica of the clothing Desu was in now. Little by little, she watches as the outfit changes with his dialogue. At first, the changes are small, subtle things, like slightly raised shoulders or changes in the folds, then the overall length was cut in half. 

“Uh, Taloc?” Desu says softly. “I kinda need a bottom.”

Startled out of his intense focus, Taloc glances to the mannequin then back to Desu. “What? Oh, yeah. Give me a second. Just had to make sure you could run freely if the need arises. Now, where was I? Oh right…”

In an almost absent minded fashion, Taloc picks his monologue up where he left off. Where once a single piece of fabric wrapped its way around the mannequin, several pieces took its place to mimic the effect. Thigh high white stockings trimmed in black with red laces flows seamlessly into sleeves of the kimono’s original style. From there, small golden ornamentation dots the tips of the sleeves and transitions into a black overgarment trimmed in thread of gold that hung low in the back, stopping around mid-calf. Beneath the overgarment, Taloc works in a modest dress very similar in style to what she normally wears, though in a soft red with elaborate white embroidery along the edges. As a final piece, Taloc adds in the central belt, weaving it in with matching colors and simple ornamentation. 

Taking a step back, Taloc smiles and turns to admire his work. Tilting his head, he raises his hand to his chin for a moment before nodding thoughtfully. Muttering something about an accessory, a brilliant red flower forms on the side of the mannequin’s head, folding out from a golden coin with a nine petaled flower swirling in on itself stamped into its center.

“So,” Taloc says confidently. “What do you think?”

Desu, once again in her normal clothing, steps closer to look the outfit over, “Well it's a far cry from traditional. I think I like it.”

“Excellent. Then let me focus on this before we leave… Want this to be just right…”

A few minutes tick by as he does his summoning and they are back in the clearing once more, the outfit lying neatly at Desu’s feet. She reaches down and picks up the clothing as Taloc walks back to his harp, sitting with his back to her and teasing his fingers deftly along the strings in an attempt at a tuning. Accepting that this was probably the most privacy she would receive out in the woods like this, Desu quickly changes into this new garb.

“While we are in this guise,” Taloc starts, making a point not to look back at the changing ninja, “I will be using the name, Dorian Wright. Do you have an alias ready, or would you like me to come up with one for you?”

“Surprise me.”





About an hour and a half passes after they leave the clearing before they come upon a decent sized building on the outskirts of a town. Dorian smiles widely as he sees a sign hanging from the front, declaring to all that the building was a tavern.

“Look at what we got here,” he exclaims with a bright and booming voice that makes the poor girl nearly jump from the still moving horse. His hand raises to point to the swinging sign. “The Tipsy Pony sounds like a fantastic establishment! Wouldn’t you agree?”

In a whisper so quiet Dorian could barely hear her, his partner responds with, “Is he going to be doing this the whole time?”


Quote:Post count:  1167 words; 6489 Characters
Total count:  3436 words; 19063 Characters
In battle it is important to keep a sharp blade

But it is by far more important to keep a sharp mind.
Reply

#4
A building of mostly wood and, humbly so, partially made of cobblestone was advertised by a horse-shaped sign that bucked gently in the wind. The title of “The Tipsy Pony” could be read a few times as one approached the solid oak door that promised warmth and security in this part of Camelot, but a posted note pierced by three nails shook in the encroaching shadow of the party to come: Entertainers welcome, the stage is yours!

Dorian smiled ambitiously. How fortunate the gods were to him today.

-

Leon was sitting complaisantly among a group of females. Two elves like himself, a couple of girls with bunny or feline ears upon their heads, and a cloaked figure. In his unspoken opinion, it only seemed to add to the conspicuousness of the woman that was underneath it. Sierra insisted though. In fact, they all had joined him despite his intentions of just making a quick ride over here. He had hoped the bounties were talking about Ash and she could use a hand in an escape.

When they arrived though, the new poster showed a different image…

Now Leon was stuck trying to fight off six girls who very much wanted to share a room with him. Minus the princess, that is. He opted for his own, not yet telling them of the apparent bad news. Since his private time with the Storm Demon, he lacked a taste for the same ole, same old.

Just as the conversations were coming to a collective end among the various groups of people, the front door of the Tipsy Pony exploded open with a grandiose flair. A gaudily dressed man, bare chest first, slid extravagantly through. This bombastic entrance was particularly disturbing of the peace for several groups of travelers that have made good with their seats nearest the door.

The flashy blue outfit glittered in the dancing candle flames. From the solid beams of the tavern, collections of antlers and twine created these homely fixtures where an enormous number of waxed twine candles set. Behind Dorian Wright, was his companion. Who promptly closes her eyes and lowers her head in grief.

“Yep,” she said to herself. “This is my life now.” Her words were immediately hushed by the loud and sultry voice that bellowed from the flamboyant bard.

“I’ve arrived!” he announced in a pompous-filled tone, his strumming hand came down across the strings of his harp. Immediately the people took it for what it appeared, forgiving his egotistical leap as just something most entertainers did.

Like a jester who was appeasing his king, prideful of his work, Dorian strutted through the crowded establishment to reach the keeper. He made a serious point to impose his flashy mannerisms onto his audience, shaking his hips in a fantastical and obnoxiously obvert way to get everyone’s full attention. Also, he would not be especially satisfied without a bit of twirling and literally rubbing up to particularly wealthy looking figures in the crowd on the way through.

“Darling!” Dorian’s voice was gay and pretentious. It was also uncharacteristically - for Taloc at least - loud and flowery. Desu watched in deep concern of what was to happen next. “The sign on the door prompted us to come in. Point me in the direction of our stage, I promise you a sublime show! In return, it is only customary that we get a room for the night as well!”

The woman behind the bar was clearly unused to this greeting, a shadow of mirrored grief across her face. However, the harp playing man was not incorrect. Bards and entertainers were treated to a room if they can indeed make good on their claims. “In the corner, bud,” she said, not sounding as thrilled as the musician as she pointed the way.

“Simply glorious!!” he sang, his voice bouncing beautifully off the walls. “I am the traveling bard, Dorian Wright! Tonight I shall impress you wonderful people with the musical feats of which my reputation hangs from.”

Another display of twirling madly with his harp, as if they were old dance partners, lead Dorian through the crowd once more. His fingers creating a glittering and fun tune for them as he made certain to point his toes with each pirouette.

He set the bar high with his big finish, leaping up to the stage - which was no more than two feet taller than the leveled surface of the main floor - and landing on his knees. His monumental finish came in the form of a fustian pose as he slid less than a few inches from the edge before stopping completely.

As if the fool had meant to do that, his fingers flutter across the strings of the instrument in a way that ended with his hand stretched out to his assistant! “And of course the ever talented dancer, Cherry, has blessed me with her help!” Hayaidesu, or rather Cherry, arched her brow high at the apparent alias.

What’s our band name, Taloc? Fruit Salad?’ she criticized harshly, but on queue brought her hands up. With an impressive flick of her wrist, the sticks snapped open into red and white fans, gold flowers painted in the wind.

Despite having no real reputation at all, the crowd followed Dorian’s ostentatious lead and began to clap at her pose. Some even whistled, if not for their group, for the bit of skin that peaked through her skirt and stockings. If it bothered the purple-haired secondary, no one could tell. Not even the prime she accompanied.

Quote:Post count: 921 words; 5249 Characters
Total count: 4357 words; 24312 Characters
[Image: source.gif]
"Centurion: I'll leave you to your work then Dust. Thanks for chatting!
Me: no problem. stay awesome!
Centurion: It's more of a passive ability"
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