Disclaimers: See Part 1
Additional Note:This tale is tied in with, The Conqueror & Ri: A Twist of Destiny. If you haven't read both stories' chapters preceding this one, you should do so now. Thanks to all my readers and a special shout out to Jedi Caro. Are you really a Jedi? ;-)
Feedback always welcomed, sometimes needed at, Martinkendell19@yahoo.com
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 15: Xena's Touch
The heretofore novice Samurai in training, who hastily became an intermediate, utilized her katana to execute multiple slashes and thrusts, while performing different forms of aerial flips. Harukata observed her with keen scrutiny, making sure Gabrielle's posture was close to perfection. Yesterday, their session together went really well, even Zicalus halted his own regiment to stare in awe of the petite bard as she and the Shogun sparred using aikido.
"Enough." Harukata announced, coaxing Gabrielle to instantly stop her drills and bow to her sensei. "Kenji will be bringing lunch. You should take a break and eat with me."
This was the first day that they begun their training in the early afternoon, instead of the late evening, which was their normal routine.
"I... I would be delighted, Shogun." Gabrielle replied, unsure of something.
He recognized her indisposition. "What is it?"
"Nothing really. Just a style I want to wholly nail down." She said, sheathing her blade.
"I've been beholding you, Gabrielle-San. Your battling grace is near total excellence."
"I appreciate the compliment, Shogun." Gabrielle walked forward to where he was standing. "However, I want to be flawless."
"Sit with me, Gabrielle-San."
She submitted to what Harukata ordered, crossing her legs whilst he did the same.
"In such a short period of time, you are doing far better than anyone I've ever trained before. If you hadn't already been formidable compared to my elite Samurai, I'd state that you might have surpassed Morimoto and Koska; them two are my strongest." Harukata avowed. "Xena's touch has left an imposing impression on you."
Gabrielle's slow forming smile faltered after Harukata's comment of the Warrior Princess. "I have also obtained tutoring from others."
"But it is Xena's skills that shines in you more than any other." Harukata refuted bluntly. "I have studied her when she's on the deck with my Samurai. I've seen her a few times here in the morning, too. Y'alls auras are very similar."
'Tanya declared that my fighting capabilities were predominantly credited to Xena as well. Even Ares had once affirmed that I am Xena's successor. No matter how I feel, she has left her mark on me. I'm her legacy, not our daughter Eve, Varia, Akemi, nor any person whom was or is a part of her life.' Gabrielle's cogitation made her frown. 'Why doesn't she love me anymore? How... how can she choose another over me?'
Catching herself, the bard ceased thinking about her love for Xena. If she kept doing it, the mental wall could break.
"Gabrielle-San." Harukata called, espying her scowl. "All will be fine. Don't lose focus on who you are and what you want to procure for your future."
"What future?" The Amazon questioned, adding a crack to the cerebral layer. "The person I'd travelled with and cared about for many years is leaving me for..."
Gabrielle closed her greenish-blue orbs, holding back her inner acerbity. She didn't want to reveal anything to confirm that her and Xena was lovers, but the short-haired blonde felt lonely now. Out of sight and out of mind did wonders for her. Any mentioning of Xena created despair within her soul, and the diminutive female wasn't sure if she could keep it all in.
"When have you and Xena talked last?" Harukata queried.
"Weeks ago." Gabrielle responded tartly.
"What exchanged between you both?"
Gabrielle started to finger her silver ring while her brainwork roamed back to their last encounter in the third tier cabin.
"Xena purported that our time together was at an end... She wants to travel with someone else." Opening her eyes, she looked at the old Shogun. "Akemi is who she desires to be with."
"Are you positive?" He prompted.
"I heard her confide it to you first, whilst in your conference quarters after you dismissed the Samurai and me." Gabrielle evinced, becoming discontented with him. "You already know it to be true."
The Shogun was beyond confused. The aforementioned day inside his cabin, he'd informed Xena that she had to die in order to help defeat the powerful daemon, Yodoshi. Whatever Gabrielle's ears picked up, she couldn't have acquired the whole details of their conversation.
"So, Xena's going with Akemi as her companion, that hurts you?"
'Dumbass question!' Gabrielle swore, but nodded in agreement.
"What is Xena to you, Gabrielle-San?" Harukata inquired.
'My hopes. My dreams. My friend; best friend. Lover. Confidante. Soul mate. The harbinger of a marital life.' She caused another dent in the phrenic covering, yet her gaze remained on the Shogun. "Xena is nothing to me. As far as I am concerned, she's dead to me."
The irony of the pronouncement wasn't lost on Harukata. Obviously there were much more to it than a couple of platonic friends having a falling out.
Harukata became worried. "Hmm, because of Xena, losing yourself in battle practice is a coping mechanism?"
"Have I displeased you, Shogun?" Gabrielle had grown weary of the topic.
"No." He asserted. "Your happiness is important to me, believe it or not."
"I'm happy now." The cropped blonde beamed. "Learning about the Samurai's Bushido code of honor, and the privilege to be taught by you, brings me comfort. I'm grateful for it and foresee that everything I'll learn will constitute to my joviality in the future, also."
'No, it won't, Gabrielle-San.' Harukata was lugubrious. 'It won't.'
The armory doors opened and Kenji strolled inside with a tray of food, bringing their discourse to a cessation. "Shogun, and, Gabrielle-San, I have prepared both your lunches."
"Thank you, Kenji." Harukata gave his gratitude, taking the bowls off of the serving platter and giving the hungry bard hers.
"Thanks." Gabrielle's stomach growled silently when she smelled the aroma of the fried rice and seafood she'd placed in front of her. "Will you be joining us, Kenji?"
"If it's alright with the Shogun." Kenji seeked approval.
"Granted." Harukata simply assented. "We will wait for your return with your meal prior to us partaking in ours. That is, if Gabrielle-San can wait?"
"I'm not certain... This looks really delicious, so you better hurry." She teased, and the smiling monk headed to the exit, but was temporary delayed by Gabrielle's words, "Hey, Kenji, maybe later today or tomorrow we'll squeeze in a quick spar with staves."
"Only if you go easy on me." He concurred, walking out of the doorway.
An hour later, Xena had completed instructing the third group of two hundred Samurai on the lower platform.
"Next time I see you all, I will be dividing everyone in pairs to duel one another!" Xena explicated a bit more than what she had apprised to the second squad yesterday, "The winners will move on to my special class of Samurai and contend with the victors in the other groups! Whomever achieve victory during those bouts will be inducted to fight beside my friend and ally, Gabrielle! Dismissed!"
"Yes, Xena-Sama!" They all shouted.
While the Samurai stalked away, Xena wasn't positive about what she wanted to do with her free time. Noticing this squad of Samurai's excelling aptitude compared to their counterparts, she chose to finish up early. Thusly left wondering how she would spend the remainder of her day, Xena began to feel an eerie sensation and glanced behind her to descry a glaring Samurai who was cleaning the floorboards.
'What the hell is his problem?' Xena ruminated briefly, traversing to the railings of the main deck to take in the sight of the sea.
"Xena, may I have a word with you?" A gruff voice asked.
"Sure." The Warrior Princess concealed her annoyance at being bothered; specifically by this man.
Koska stood next to her, adorned in his yellow kimono. "I'm here to deliver a message to you from the Greek that helped us locate you."
"Tanya." Xena derived.
He presented a nod of concurrence. "She'd queried Kenji if it was alright to attend one of your training sessions with the Samurai. He had passed the request to the Shogun and it got delegated to me. Since you are the instructor, it's sensible that you make the decision for your fellow friend in this regard."
"Tanya isn't my friend." Xena clarified, her eyes lingered on the ocean.
"All the same, it is still your sessions and your option."
She hadn't forgotten the rash, younger woman that pretended to be the Destroyer of Nations, nor how arrogant Tanya had gotten when forcing the issue of having Gabrielle shoved aside, so she could usurp the trim blonde's position to be educated in the art of war by her. Xena also didn't forget what she'd professed to the auburn-haired warrior.
'I won't teach you anything, Tanya. We will not be taking you with us either. Your choices are to return home or begin your trek in this world, seeking out your own destiny, because it's not with me nor Gabrielle.'
"Tell her the answer is no." Xena rejoined.
"So be it." Koska started to stride away, then stopped to aver his opinion on a different subject, "I'm not comfortable with any of the events that is taking place on this ship. Females are not bred to be warriors. Nevertheless, you have proven that to be false."
Xena gestured to the man behind them. "Perhaps he feels more strongly than you do when it comes to women and men."
Koska turned to view the adduced Samurai. "Ah, Neji. He has been punished to mop the top and bottom platforms for almost breaking his sworn oath of silence to Gabrielle-San regarding your fate in Japa."
"Bastard." Xena growled.
"He's not entirely upset with you, but with your companion mostly. She nearly killed him, or so I was told." Koska imparted.
"What?" Xena was shocked. "How, when?"
"Fifteen days ago, right after you banged up the first group of Samurai that Neji was associated with. He took his embarrassment out on Gabrielle-San whilst she was in the armory practicing. She used an unique technique on his neck... A pressure point of some kind, causing him to suffer and for blood to gush from his nose."
'That's my girl.' The raven-haired warrior was proud of her soul mate. 'Don't take shit from nobody.'
"Once she had removed it off of him, Neji went on a short tangent, almost revealing everything. The Shogun was there to put a halt to his constant babbling, though." Koska explained.
"Harukata should have told me." Xena proclaimed her dissatisfaction. "Where is he anyway? He's usually here supervising me."
Not comfortable with Xena's continuous lapses in decorum for his provincial leader, Koska ignored it and belied the truth, "The Shogun is busy today. Besides, he handled the situation with Neji wisely."
"You mean, leniently. Neji should be sentenced to death." Xena alleged.
"All has been taken care of, Xena. There's no need for unnecessary actions." Koska disputed.
"Perchance not today, howbeit, who knows what the future will bring with that man."
Koska studied her for a minute, predicating, "You intrigue me a great deal, Xena. One instant, you're a maddening shroud, pummeling the Samurai. Thereafter, you are collective and reposed, aiding them into becoming faster contenders with sufficient endurance."
"I am what I am. As are you." Xena commenced traipsing below deck, pointing to Neji mopping the wooden floorboards. "Him included. I'll be watching Neji closely, you should, too, Koska."
Koska inclined his head in her direction, eyeing Xena as she disappeared.
The Warrior Princess was tired, but restless. Little sleep came to her in all the nights she had slept on the warship. Meditation had done nothing to appease her wary brain. There was a singular remedy Xena needed, and that was her bard.
Kenji spotted her while he was returning to the top platform, carrying a tray that held a few bowls on it. "Xena-Sama, how goes another day of drilling the Samurai?"
"Same as always." She retorted. "Where are you going?"
"I have just finished having lunch with the Shogun."
'He has three trays.' Xena consciously counted. "Only you and Harukata ate together?"
"Gabrielle-San was with us as well." Kenji cheerfully divulged.
Her ex-lover's name had garnered an impact, and Xena wanted to see her. To touch her. To lay next to her for a profound, restful slumber.
Xena casually expounded, "I won't hold you up any longer."
"I could bring you a plate, too, if you want." The monk offered.
Xena was deeply moved by Kenji's sincerity, even after she showed nothing but contempt towards him for bringing her and Gabrielle the dreadful news of Japa. She knew her motives were wrong and he deserved better treatment from her.
"That would be appreciated, Kenji. Nonetheless, I'm not hungry at the moment."
"You are welcome, Xena-Sama. If you do get famished, and I'm not around, you know where the caboose is." Kenji grinned, continuing on his way.
'I should probably do some drills in the armory before retiring to my room on the second tier.' Xena thought, erstwhile contemplating descending the stairs of the first tier.
Denouncing the idea, Xena decided to take a bath and mentally prepare herself for the nightmares without her soul mate to plague her exiguous dreams.
Morimoto stood erect on the gradient of Higuchi, donned in his dark metallic armor whilst waiting for his five scouts to rein in their horses before him.
"What is Yodoshi's progress?" He uttered.
"His unnatural soldiers are ever closer." One of them spoke. "They'll be here in a matter of hours, if not by nightfall."
Morimoto was dismayed by the intel, notwithstanding, he retained an inscrutable visage. "Drink and eat. You all deserve it."
The men bowed, then proceeded to do as Morimoto decreed.
His second-in-command moved beside him. "What are we to do, Daimyo?"
"We will do what our Shogun dictated, Nico. Protecting Higuchi is our main goal."
"Even if it means our lives?"
"If Amaterasu wills it." Morimoto gazed at him. "Are you afraid?"
"Yes, Daimyo." He conceded. "Aren't you? These are not regular brigands. They're not even human."
Morimoto had to agree with Nico. The Daimyo was frightful of Yodoshi and his undead army. He wanted to leave the country to its inevitable outcome and take his contingent of five thousand Samurai back to Shinto. Albeit, he had a duty to not exclusively safeguard Higuchi, but its temple, also.
"I'm terrified of Yodoshi and what he's capable of doing to us, but we are honored bound to guard this place. We can't allow Yodoshi to destroy Korei-den, by any means necessary."
"We will die." Nico muttered.
"Am I mistaken for choosing you to be my second?" Morimoto questioned sternly.
"No, Daimyo." Nico disagreed. "I will serve you to the end with the best of my abilities."
"Good to hear." Morimoto was shortly heartened. "Did you send out the scroll to the Shogun?"
"Yes, four days ago. Hopefully, with Amaterasu's guidance, the carrier pigeon will find the warship in time."
"We must contain the daemon's forces until the Shogun arrive with this Warrior Princess." Morimoto expressed.
"Do you think a woman can really succor us in defeating him?" Nico dubiously asked.
"She has to, or all is bleak." Morimoto rationalized. "Get the men ready. Let them know that we fight this day, or night to not just defend our lives, but the hereafter of Shinto and Japa."
"It will be done." Nico consented, bowing.
Morimoto stayed rooted where he was. His Shogun, the other elite Samurai, and eight hundred of the greatest fighters of Shinto had been gone from Japa for more then two months. Throughout that time frame, Kyushu had gotten destroyed and the Kashiko-dokoro temple was lost with it. Now, the same pugnacious, destructive source was primed to claim another town village and its Sanctuary.
'I cannot let that happen.' Morimoto vowed, covering his face and head with his black helmet. 'Higuchi and its temple will survive, or I'll give my final breath defending it.'
To Be Continued
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