Disclaimers: See Chapter 1
Additional Note (Please Read): This tale is tied in with, The Conqueror & Ri: A Twist of Destiny. If you haven't read both story's chapters preceding this one, you should do so now. I would also like to thank my readers and to, Marijke S Bush, another chapter will be soon. ;-)
Xena & Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 12: Making Progress
Kenji made good on his promise to bring a new candle for the lantern, food and a tub for her. She ate a little of the breakfast and had a strenuous time washing herself. When she was finished and fully dressed, equipped with her sais, the petite Amazon couldn't abide staying inside the cabin that she'd once shared with, Xena. Now Gabrielle stood on the upper deck, breathing in the noon breeze, pondering why was over one hundred Samurai, converging on the main deck below.
'What is this all about?' Gabrielle mentally queried.
"Gabrielle San!" Zicalus exclaimed, walking up the side steps to join her.
"Hey, Zicalus." she greeted him.
The Samurai wore his blue armor, carrying the helmet under his left arm. He was also equipped with his weapons and held a platter of nut bread in his right hand.
"Kenji said, I would find you here." he proclaimed. "You ran so fast down the tier yesterday without saying anything. I was going to stop by your cabin, but I surmised you didn't want to be bothered. So, I saved you some of the nut bread."
Zicalus set his helmet and the platter on the wide wooden railing.
Gabrielle looked at the handsome man as he moved the dark fringe of hair from his light green orbs. "I'm flattered that you thought about me. Thank you, but I'm not hungry."
"It's nut bread, Gabrielle San." Zicalus bit into a slice and chewed. "You've claimed yourself that it's your favorite."
"It is." she replied. "Either way, I won't be able to taste it. I've already used the pressure point for my seasickness."
Zicalus didn't concede. "Your tongue may be numb, however, your tummy will enjoy it. Kenji told me, you hadn't eaten much this morning."
The bard rolled her eyes playfully. "What a tattle tale. You know, I wasn't too fond of having anybody enter my cabin while I slept, but Kenji's politeness makes me okay with it."
"He cares for everyone and your health as do I, Gabrielle San. Now come on and eat some of this with me." Zicalus said.
Gabrielle picked up a slice and ate it. Then grabbed another.
"What's going on down there?" she asked.
"An inspection for training, I think." Zicalus theorized.
They consumed the sweet dessert in silence while watching Xena and the red armored Harukata walk onto the bottom main deck, causing Gabrielle major discomfort in seeing her ex-lover.
The Warrior Princess was in top form and couldn't wait to get started. After her drill session inside the spacious armory, her mind was focused on the task at hand.
"Samurai warriors." the Shogun addressed his two hundred men. "A great battle awaits us all in Japa. Our combat skills must surpass the numerous un-worldly fighters of Yodoshi's. Xena, the Warrior Princess will be instructing you today."
"This woman?" a Samurai called out.
"She isn't a Samurai!" someone else chimed in.
"What can a woman teach us?"
Xena turned her back to the protesting men and blandly tugged Harukata in front of her.
"Tell them and make 'em understand, I will be their instructor." she demanded.
Harukata wasn't fond of being told what to do by anyone other than his goddess, but what choice did he have? If he didn't do what Xena requested, anent to his Samurai, she threaten to leave and he couldn't risk that.
Harukata inclined his head, next he walked pass her to pontificate his men. "She is a woman and she isn't a Samurai. Nevertheless, Xena is the finest combatant any of you will ever face. She will teach you all a lot."
"She's the reason we're in this predicament!"
"It's her fault to begin with!"
Xena shut her eyes, disturbed by the truthful comments. She was the cause of the quagmire that plagued Japa and was compliant to be reminded everyday, whether by her own accord, or others. For this was why she had to lay down her life.
"Xena Sama looks to be either their sensei, or their contender." Zicalus speculated. "Possibly the latter. A woman have never trained Samurai before."
"Why's that? I've been told that, women are inferior. Is it true?" Gabrielle inquired, taking her eyes from Xena to look at Zicalus.
"Yes. It's forbidden to let women become a Samurai. They can defend their father's and husband's homes, but they can not become one of us."
The bard was unsettled by the comment. "That's unfair. Do you share those beliefs fully as well?"
Zicalus snatched the last piece of nut bread from the platter. "No, I believe women should be cater to and treated equally to their counterparts."
He brought his hand to Gabrielle's mouth to feed her the baked snack and she opened it, receiving the tasteless bread. Zicalus liked that Gabrielle was accepting the dessert while the Amazon wondered why she was letting the Samurai feed her. It's still true that she felt alone and hurt for what transpired between her and Xena. However, she took comfort in Zicalus' attentiveness. She hadn't noticed her raven haired former fiancee was opening her cerulean irises.
Xena was unprepared for the sight that graced her. Atop the upper deck, Gabrielle was partaking in eating from Zicalus' hand. Envious fury invaded Xena while she looked upon Gabrielle's shy smiling countenance.
Gabrielle took the slice of nut bread in her oral orifice, when her eyes connected with Xena's. Withdrawing from Zicalus with haste, she accidentally closed her mouth on his fingers. To Xena's vision, it appeared like Gabrielle sucked Zicalus' digits.
"Whoa!" Zicalus exclaimed. "I'm sure you can't taste anything, Gabrielle San. Cause you nearly chomp my fingers off."
"Forgive me." Gabrielle apologized.
It was all she could say as her gaze locked with Xena's, until the tall woman broke it by whirling around.
"You will obey her commands and that is an order." the Shogun declared.
The two hundred men grumbled amongst themselves as an incensed Xena spoke. "I'm here to not only aid y'all in liberating Japa of Yodoshi, but also to cull out the best from the worse."
"Who are you to decide?" a Samurai inquired.
'We'll do it the hard way then.' Xena was going to enjoy herself.
"Step forward and discover for yourself." she unsheathed her sword.
When the inquiring Samurai unsheathed his katana, Harukata stalked farther away from the forthcoming action, concurring that some examples had to be made.
"I didn't think you would show." he said as Koska settled beside him.
"I wasn't, but I knew you'd be here and I wanted to apologize for my conduct yesterday."
"All is forgiven." the Shogun responded. "Is that all, or did curiosity bring you too?"
Koska smiled at Harukata's knowing inquisitiveness while Xena twirled her blade twice and then engaged the Samurai, making short work of him by sweeping his feet.
Without warning, another warrior entered the fray, swinging his katana towards Xena's neck, but she deflected it and swirled their enjoined blades, causing him to lose his grip. Unarmed and defenceless, Xena did a jump kick, knocking him down as well. A third Samurai stepped to the challenge.
"Xena Sama is amazing." the blue armored Zicalus peered over the upper deck's railing, watching the Warrior Princess use a roundhouse kick to his fellow companion's temple. "I'm surprised he didn't fall from that attack."
Seeing Xena smack the Samurai on his rear with the flat side of her sword, Gabrielle determined. "She's toying with them."
"What? You're saying, this isn't her limit?"
The Amazon shook her head. "No, it is not."
After launching the third Samurai in midair from a left hook punch, Xena wanted to have more fun.
'If this is all they can offer in battle, they are in trouble.'
Next, she gazed at the remaining Samurai, most of them eager to fight her.
"Is this it!" Xena grinned. "The greatest Samurai out the entirety of Shinto, can't defeat a woman? I bet you all couldn't take me down together!"
With that vain announcement, every standing warrior tried to assail her at once.
"What is she doing?" Koska questioned. "This is not training. It's a free-for-all."
The Shogun stayed quiet throughout his men's trouncing.
Zicalus was getting excited, curious if he could do better than the Samurai below. He is part of the Shogun's gilt-class, so of course he would do better, but can he win?
"You think, I would do well against Xena Sama?"
Gabrielle haven't heard Zicalus' question. She was dismayed by Xena's presence on the main deck as she manhandle her challengers.
'What to make of the look that passed between us while Zicalus fed me? Was it disbelief? Envy? Jealousy? Is she blowing off steam by beating these guys up? What right does Xena have to display any emotions for what I'm doing with Zicalus!' Gabrielle ruminated. 'She broke up with me. I'll do as I please.'
Eyeing the beautiful features of Zicalus, the short haired blonde wasn't attracted to him, although Xena accused her of it.
Finally, Gabrielle realized his lips were moving. "What was that?"
"I asked, do you think, I'll do well against, Xena Sama?"
"I wouldn't try it." Gabrielle answered in a concise manner. "She'll probably injure you for spite of what we've done."
Zicalus became dumbfounded. "What did we do to cause Xena Sama to be spiteful?"
"You fed-" Gabrielle halted her reply.
She was positive no one abroad the humongous warship had knowledge of her intimate relationship with Xena. Just like nobody knows of its end.
"It's nothing, but Xena can be jealous over me sometimes." she conveyed. "You and the others wear splendid armor, unlike the rest of the Samurai I've seen so far. Are you of a higher rank?"
"We are." Zicalus stated proudly. "Myself, Morimoto, Koska and Moku. I've been tutored by Moku since I came into his care."
"Really?" Gabrielle was intrigued. "Tell me more about your upbringing, if you don't mind sharing."
Zicalus became inflamed to talk about his life with the lovely bard. "My mother is Greek and thirst for adventure, so she left Greece and found her way to Japa. It was there, she'd met a Samurai warrior from Shinto. They fell in love and I was conceived from their union. My father loved her and me. We were happy."
Gabrielle thought of her marriage to Perdicus. 'It's obvious that me and Xena could never have happiness, but would I have achieved marital bliss had he stayed alive? Would I have given him children and lived happily?'
Zicalus' expression got gloomy. "A skirmish erupted when I was ten and my father was sent to resolve it. The situation was solved, but my father didn't survive. He was killed doing the conflict and my mother wasn't the same again."
Gabrielle placed her hand on his forearm, relating to losing a father. "I'm sorry for your lost."
"It was a long time ago." he replied. "My mother understood that my father was doing his duty, she just couldn't understand why he had to die. She decided to return back to her homeland, however, I wanted to stay. Don't get me wrong, I love my mother, but I've learned the history of the Samurai and craved to become one. My mother was reluctant to let me remain at first, but once Moku swore to taking care of me, my mother assented to the idea. Mostly because he was my father's close friend and she acknowledged my will to become a Samurai. Moku trained me and I haven't ever seen my mother again."
"Do you miss her?" Gabrielle queried.
"Everyday." Zicalus admitted. "Still, I wouldn't change my decision to stay in Japa for anything. Moku was content with me as his pupil. It wasn't till recently, I was elevated to a first-class Samurai. It's a shame that it came at the exact time, Moku got mutilated by the daemon, Yodoshi."
Gabrielle gasped. "It was him? Moku was the sole survivor?"
"That's why he have those hideous scars on his face." Zicalus expressed. "It's not only there either. Yodoshi made incisions all over his body."
"Yodoshi is a cruel monster. Hopefully his end is near."
"I'm sure it is, Gabrielle San. Xena Sama is gonna repair everything. It's a terrible price she'll have to pay though." Zicalus implied.
'I don't want to hear anything concerning Xena. Wait a moment.' Gabrielle's interest rose. "What did you say?"
Zicalus became conscious of his error. The Shogun made every Samurai swear on their honor not to inform Gabrielle of Xena's fate.
"The fact that all of this is occurring, is terrible." he responded. "Having you and Xena Sama, technically forced to help in Japa's affairs, must be a big price to pay, I suppose."
"But you only mentioned Xena, not me." the bard pressed.
"A slip of mind frame." Zicalus lied.
Zicalus wanted to alter the subject with an inquiry he'd kept since yesterday. "Are you married, Gabrielle San?"
Gabrielle touched the silver band on her index finger. The ring that Xena presented to her in Thebes. The engravings of primary words that was a foretelling of lies. Yet, why haven't she removed it? While she was in the tub earlier, Gabrielle was astraddle with thoughts of taking it off, or keeping it on, until she discarded the circlet item out her head altogether.
"I've married... Once." she said. "He died after our wedding night."
"Oh." Zicalus wasn't ready for such an answer. "Pardon me for bringing it up."
"It's alright, Zicalus. It was a long time ago for me too."
Xena's famous war cry sounded in the air, coaxing Zicalus to glance at the horrendous thrashing of the Samurai and he chose to test his skills. It would also give him a chance to reorganize a plan on how to approach Gabrielle for courtship.
"I'm gonna go down there."
Gabrielle let loose a sigh. "Okay, but I did warn ya."
Zicalus gave her a heartwarming smile, before grabbing his helmet and putting it on while he descended the stairs.
Xena lost count of the many Samurai she had felled. She was in battle-mode as her reflexes relayed the process of dodge, parry, counter, attack and refraining from maiming, or wounding any of the men. Xena became cognizant of the final man, getting inside his personal space and hitting him on the head with the hilt of her sword.
Then there were none.
Koska was in awe of how easy it seemed for the Warrior Princess to triumph over the two hundred Samurai. Harukata didn't share Koska's feelings. He was infuriated and took a step towards Xena, to let her know, but when he saw Zicalus walking to the woman his frustration was directed to, Harukata stopped.
Xena hardly broken a sweat from beating on the so-called, best Samurai that their Shogun had claimed them to be. She turned on her feet when her instincts entailed someone was behind her. Xena must have appeased a vengeful deity, for standing in front of her was the source of her aggravation.
'Zicalus.' she mused with delectation.
To say that Zicalus was nervous would be an understatement. His palms was clammy, knees was weak and his arms were growing heavy. He knew if he used his katana, it would be knocked out his hand. Reaching over his shoulder, Zicalus drew his naginata.
Xena had a wide grin on her lips as she sheathed her sword and un-clipped her yin-yang chakram, wielding it by the bar in the middle. She was uncertain if she wanted to dally with Zicalus, or hastily plant him on his back similar to the Samurai that was groaning and trying to get onto their feet.
'I'll have fun with him too.' Xena affirmed, temporarily showing her joyous smile to Gabrielle.
The Amazon knew the game Xena was anxious to get underway. 'God, she can be a bitch sometimes.'
She did advise Zicalus not to fight Xena. Now he was going to be dissected by her jealous ex-lover, till she was bored of him. Gabrielle wanted to yell, 'Kick Xena's ass, Zicalus', but she already could discern who the victor was gonna be. Even if the blue armored first-class Samurai was an adapt fighter, Xena was going to win regardless. The bard had no voracity to see him get humiliated, she only prayed that Zicalus wouldn't get bruised and hurt too badly as the two competitors charged each other.
Zicalus swung his metallic pole, missing Xena when she slid beneath it on her knees. Next, she executed a spinning slash with her chakram, slightly scraping the blue armor that covered Zicalus' stomach area. Getting to her feet, their weapons clashed together repeatedly, causing the young Samurai to become more tenacious to land a blow.
Xena aimed a deliberate sluggish right kick to Zicalus' leg and was jovial once he had moved it from harm, the way she had planned. Using the same foot, she kicked his lower chest, forcing him backwards. The attack was so fast, Zicalus haven't had the time to perceive it. Centralizing his focus on a different offense, he rapidly thrust the bottom part of his naginata at Xena, shaking off annoyance and adoration for how well the female warrior fluidly evaded each strike without blocking with her circular disc.
Deciding to aim a low jab to her waist, Zicalus got the result he wanted as Xena parried it with her chakram. Lunging forward to start her own offensive, Xena almost didn't see it coming when Zicalus extended the long hidden blade that was concealed inside the top portion of his pole. Swaying her head from being impaled, Xena performed a backflip.
'Play time is over.' she cogitated, throwing her chakram.
Zicalus instinctively blocked it, making the singular disc divide. The Warrior Princess retrieved the returning two halves in both hands and rushed the bewildered Samurai. Her attacks was delivered with effective quickness, all Zicalus could do was defend. Xena implemented a high standing kick, swatting the naginata loose from Zicalus' grasp. Rendered disarmed, he quickly unsheathed his katana to shield himself from Xena's continuous strikes with her twin weapons.
Xena could tell he was getting winded and crouched to elbow Zicalus in his belly. The armor that protected him couldn't null the pain he felt from the hit.
'How did I allow her to penetrate my defenses?' he wondered, out of breath.
His arms barely registered the notion to intercept one of the chakrams. As the projectile rebounded off his katana, Zicalus wasn't prepared to be dazed by the second half that ricocheted against his helmet. While the yin and yang chakrams bounced off the warship's mast and united once more, Xena took advantage of Zicalus' disorientation.
Letting her war cry ring out, Xena set her left foot on his chest and propelled herself upwards, initiating a twirling heel kick, knocking Zicalus' helmet free from his head. When she landed on the deck, Xena grabbed the revolving chakram out the air and then clipped it to her side.
Zicalus could hardly keep a grip on his katana, let alone stand. Xena relieved him of both tiresome options as she tackled him to the floorboards. To her, none of the Samurai was good, including Zicalus.
Evil cognition ran through Xena's brain. 'You are a useless warrior, Zicalus. You want to seduce and fuck Gabrielle, but you can't protect her!'
Forming a fist, she assaulted the vulnerable man underneath her.
'Thought you could gain points with her by defeating me!' Xena bashed him again.
'Pretty boy, huh? Lets see if Gabrielle will think you're pretty after I break your face!'
Raising her fist to do just that, a voice pulled her back to sanity.
Glimpsing around, Xena recognized the vocal shout originated from, Harukata. Koska's impression of Xena had sour again as he watched her lift up from the overwhelmed blue armored Samurai and walk towards them.
"If the rest of your warriors aren't better than these Samurai, y'all are just as doomed as I am." Xena pronounced.
"Yes, Shogun?" he replied.
"Get them back onto their feet. The ones that has dexterity, have them help, Zicalus."
Koska shook his head disapprovingly at Xena, before doing what was commanded.
"You call that, training?" Harukata asked.
"No." Xena smirked. "I call it, making progress."
Harukata lost his cool. "You litter the deck with my Samurai without giving them a positive, constructive instruction and you say, it's progress?"
"They was going to give me a problem and I don't have the patience for that." Xena responded. "Next time, everything will go smoothly."
The Shogun scoffed. "There won't be a next time."
"We had a deal, Harukata." Xena growled.
The red armored Shogun hated the fact that he needed Xena and although he haven't swore on his honor to let her inspect his Samurai, he had faith that she was striving to leave Gabrielle some type of protection.
Harukata relented. "Tomorrow, I'll bring the second group of two hundred. However, if you deviate from the purpose of training, we will have to work out another agreement."
Then he moved closer to Xena. "And if you attack them the way you did, Zicalus, you'll just have to swim back to Greece, because I will gratefully throw you off my ship."
After that, he went below deck, without giving Xena an opportunity to retort. Xena self-righteously looked at the Shogun's Samurai. Most was standing and some was still in pain while a few assisted, Zicalus. She beamed brightly when she turned her attention to where she last seen, Gabrielle so she could gloat, but frowned once she eyed the upper deck.
The dark haired man was desperately holding onto consciousness, highly embarrassed of getting thumped. His light green orbs looked up to the upper deck and Zicalus became delighted that Gabrielle was gone.
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