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. A thanks to all my readers with a little shout out to Silvermoonlight and Jinxie 2013. Enjoy!
Feedback always welcomed, sometimes needed at, Martinkendell19@yahoo.com
Xena and Gabrielle,
A Turn of Fate,
Chapter 16: Initiative Aptitude
Zicalus viewed the Warrior Princess from the top deck as she continued instructing the Samurai. He wore his blue armor, except for his helmet, and was solely equipped with his katana. After Xena finished her session, he planned to go to the armory and do his drills. Seeing Gabrielle would be a bonus.
Moku stood next to him, adorned in a purple kimono, the scars on his face were exposed for all on board to see, but he wasn't ashamed and thought nothing of his disfigurement. Tapping Zicalus on his arm, the spiky, brown-haired elite pointed down at Xena and formed a fist.
"No, Moku." Zicalus understood what he was conveying. "I'm not mad at Xena-Sama for what she had done to me."
Moku smiled, nodding his head in acquiescence to his former pupil.
"She is overprotective of Gabrielle-Chan." Zicalus imparted. "I'm sure she had no intentions on hurting me for fun only."
His mentor gazed at him with a puzzling expression, wondering why Zicalus used the charming appellation for the cropped blonde.
"I've gotten very close to Gabrielle-Chan. She wants to settle in Shinto once we defeat Yodoshi and repair the destruction he has created in Japa." Zicalus predicated, and Moku shook his hand joyously, making the handsome man blush. "We aren't a couple, yet. I'm not positive on how to approach her."
Moku pulled Zicalus in a hug, whispering quietly in his ear, "You'll know when the time is right."
Zicalus cherished Moku's words of encouragement. It strengthened him with hope that he would be able to enter Gabrielle's heart and obliterate the sadness lying inside.
"Master Zicalus! Master Moku!" Suzu yelled out, whilst he and Hiro ran up the stairs towards them.
"Hey, what are you two doing?" Zicalus inquired. "I assumed you both would be resting. Koska told me y'alls squad is going to be paired up against one another."
"We are." Hiro answered. "Our dueling trials begins tomorrow."
"We wanted to ask for some assistance." Suzu affirmed.
"What might that be?" Zicalus questioned. "Some tips on combat?"
"No, we have faith in our skills. Xena-Sama's instructions has been corrigible." Suzu purported. "We seen Kenji getting a sky blue kimono for Gabrielle-San. He's going to present it to her in the morning. Our squad want to surprise Xena-Sama with one of her own, in thanks for all she's done."
"If that is okay with you, Master Zicalus?" Hiro added, recalling what had befallen him by Xena's hand.
"I have no argument to disagree." He replied. "What is it you guys need?"
"Kenji is in the armory with Gabrielle-San and we aren't permitted to go inside, but we need his tools to add a few designs on the kimono we've chosen to give her. Sewing is mostly a women's trait, but Suzu's good at it." Hiro pronounced.
"Only a little." Suzu tried hiding his embarrassment. "My mother and sister showed me how."
Hiro and Moku covered their grins.
"It's alright, Suzu. You don't have to get defensive. Needle crafting can be used in a variety of ways, such as stitching a wound." Zicalus alleviated him. "I will talk to Kenji and have the instruments you require brought forth."
"Thank you, Master Zicalus." Suzu and Hiro gave their gratitude.
They bowed, and the blue armored Samurai returned the gesture. Then he and Moku descended the steps to seek Kenji.
"Do you think Xena-Sama will like our gift?" Hiro queried, taking the spot where the two elites just occupied.
"She should. I don't foresee why not."
"You both are a couple of idiots." Neji insulted them, coming up the stairs.
"Says the Samurai who has to scrub the decks." Hiro laughed.
Suzu chuckled. "We warned you to hush your mouth, but no, you had to carry on. You're the true meaning of the word idiot."
Neji dropped the mop in a state of tumult. "That woman is the cause of everything that's afflicting our country and y'all want to bestow gifts upon her with high praises."
"She is travelling to Japa in hopes of fixing the problem." Suzu countered. "Xena-Sama is ready to yield her life to do it."
"She's no Sama." Neji raged on. "There's nothing great about her that should be respected."
"Xena-Sama taught us a lot." Suzu defended, accentuating her honorific. "Our speed has increased, and we don't get fatigued quickly. Results hasn't shown itself in our group solely, but in the other squads as well. The Shogun is pleased with her. We are, too."
"Enjoy cleaning the ship, Neji." Hiro teased. "We'll save a spot for ya in our squad when you get your head out of your ass."
The two men left Neji on the upper platform, his enmity hardly staggering while he picked the mop off the floorboards.
'By Amaterasu, now everyone wants to treat her like she's a hero.' Neji cogitated, peering down at the dark-haired teacher ending the Samurai's training, and an evil smirk lit his face. 'She'll be dead soon enough. And that small friend of hers will be greeting her on the other side.'
"Get back to mopping!" Koska shouted from below.
"Yes, Master Koska." Neji grumbled.
Koska pitied the man scrubbing the deck. Hopefully this punitive was sufficient in correcting his disobedient ways. His brown orbs turned to Xena. The Greek warrior averred for a harsher punishment to befall Neji, assured he wasn't worth getting a second chance.
'If we all invoked that sentiment, where would you be, Xena?' Koska ruminated. 'How many chances has been given to you?'
When the group of Samurai dispersed, he watched the Warrior Princess walk below deck.
'I should pay Argo a visit before going to my cabin.' Xena decided. 'I haven't seen her in days.'
Descending the stairway, Xena trekked the third tier, avoiding the path that would take her in front of the room she still presumed lodged Gabrielle. Coming to the hidden compartment leading to the bottom hull of the warship, Xena opened it and declined its ladder, heading to the stall that housed her mare.
"Hey, girl." She announced, coaxing the Palomino to whinny excitedly.
Elongated hands rubbed the cream-colored mane, whilst Xena admired Argo II's shiny coat. Her trough was filled and the horse appeared thoroughly healthy.
"I've became so busy in the last several days, but I can safely presume you have been well taken care of." Glancing around the enclosed area, Xena noticed one of the saddlebags had been tampered with. "Who has come snooping in here, Argo?"
Xena looked in the bag and came to the conclusion that it belonged to her soul mate.
'She was here?' The blue-eyed woman clutched her chest. "Gabrielle visited you, Argo?"
Argo rose on her hind legs, neighing loudly, and Xena began smiling sadly at her. Thereafter, she started rummaging through the contents of the saddlebag, wondering why Gabrielle didn't take it with her.
'Her scrolls.' Xena gasped, pulling out a bundle of them. 'She kept her scrolls here, but why?'
Unrolling a random selected parchment, Xena read what was written on it.
[I gaze at her, pondering if she knows what run through my mind while she sharpens her sword. This is her nightly ritual and the sound of stone scrapping steel lures me into something I can only define as serenity. Tonight I'll make an excuse to lay closer beside her in our bedrolls. Perhaps I'll make a remark on how cold the temperature is becoming to me and that our body heat will keep us warm. Maybe I'll]
Xena stopped reading, aware she had stumbled on Gabrielle's private scrolls. 'I will just put it back where I've found it.'
Temptation got the better of her and Xena sat down on the hay, reading where she'd left off.
[Maybe I'll reveal to her my growing affections. Howbeit, will she turn me away? Break my heart by stating we can no longer be friends? Either way, how can I explain these feelings within me when I'm not certain what they are. I love her now. Of that, I know it's a fact. What kind of love, I ask myself? Is it amorous? Friendly? I remember David calling it agape in a psalm he wrote; a love we all have for one another that's on par with the Israelites' god. A selfless love sounds right to me, but that can't be all. It's so embarrassing, however, she makes me wet when I'm girdled by her rare, sweet embrace, infusing me with lewd ruminations of touching myself, which I resist doing. But to touch her... To kiss her lovingly; would it repulse her? I must find out soon. I cannot remain holding these unexplored emotions inside. It's screaming to be released and I'm inclined to do just that. Not tonight, though. We have a mission to help Orpheus stop Bacchus. Once that's over, I'll get rid of Joxer. I am more than sure he'll try to tag along with us for a few days. She's staring at me now, albeit I'll pretend not to notice. Blue eyes are beckoning me to her. By the gods, give me strength for one more night. One more night, before I try to lay claim on this beautiful creature. The Warrior Princess. My Xena.]
'Gabrielle always loved me.' She mused, rolling the scroll up again and berating herself aloud, "What type of fool am I?"
A female's vocal called her name softly, "Xena?"
"Gabrielle?" Xena grew too hopeful.
"No." Tanya stepped in the stall. "I was passing by after seeing Brownie when I heard your voice."
"How are you, Tanya?" Xena quizzed aloofly, wanting the auburn-haired teen to go away.
"Happy actually. I have more freedom from rowing, thanks to Kenji. For a monk he's really cool. I spend time with Brownie and sleep in his stall to keep him off edge. Sleeping with them galley foreigners freak me out. Although a few of them are nice, I'm not aiming to be ganged-raped." Tanya joked facetiously.
"Good for you. I'm a bit tied up at the moment." Xena was dismissing her. "I'll see you around or something."
"Okay." Tanya acceded slightly. "Can I inquire about one thing?"
"What is it?"
"I requested if I could be part of the training that you hold during the afternoons, but Koska informed me you've said no."
"Why?" Tanya was disappointed. "Does it have anything to do with when we first met?"
"Yes and no." Xena rejoined.
"I don't get it." Tanya confessed.
"Yes, because I have told you that I'm not teaching you to begin with. No, because it's too late anyway." Xena listed off. "Tomorrow I will commence dividing the Samurai in pairs to duel. There's no place for you, Tanya."
"I'm confident you could make adjustments for me."
"The answer is still no." Xena retorted.
"What can I do to help change your-"
"Nothing." She interjected. "Now, if you'll please excuse me. I'm perusing these scrolls here and would like silence."
"Are they Gabrielle's?" Tanya asked.
"What are they referring to?"
"Okay..." Tanya was ascertaining the warrior's detached awareness. "Do you hate me, Xena?"
"Hmm." She hummed in a bored tone.
Feeling slighted by Xena's replies, Tanya tested her, "I should go fishing."
"Yeah." Xena wasn't paying attention, becoming interested in the new scroll she was reading.
Tanya became peeved. "Damn it, can you stop giving me one word responses."
Annoyed now, Xena glared at the teenager. "Can you get the hell out of Argo's stall. Ere I arise and throw you out."
Tanya sucked her teeth in frustration, storming out of the confined space and towards the one that sheltered her dark-brown horse.
Sighing, Xena set the parchment on the hay, cogitating whether it was right or wrong of her to be a jerk to Tanya. All she wanted was to learn some moves from her, the same way Gabrielle desired to do long ago. Her soul mate knew everything Xena did now, and the Warrior Princess wasn't willing to go through taking another innocent under her wing, especially since she was scheduled to die, leaving the woman she'd always love over all else.
'At least I have taught you all I know, Gabrielle.'
Xena glanced at her yin-yang chakram and an idea sprouted in her head.
'Almost everything.' She beamed happily.
Two staffs collided against each other. One of the participants was breathing heavily, whilst their hands became stiff from the constant collision. The second was attacking with such ferocity that the numerous Samurai, who was watching from the opened armory doors, couldn't cease their awe of the petite blonde.
Coming down with a hard, vertical attack, Kenji went to block it and his staff got splintered in half. A light, swift kick sent the monk on his rear.
"I win." Gabrielle cheered, lending a hand to help the felled man.
"No fair, Gabrielle-San." Kenji jived, gripping her appendage to get on his feet. "You said you'd go easy on me."
"That was yesterday, Kenji. Nonetheless, we didn't spar 'cause the Shogun wanted me to train alone with him."
"So, tomorrow will you ease up on me?" He grinned.
"Yes." She conceded.
Next, Gabrielle twirled the stave, encircling herself with it at lightning speed. The Samurai spectators were amazed from the sight she displayed.
"She is velocious like Xena-Sama." A Samurai spoke.
"You are right." Another concurred.
"I wonder who would win between the two of them in a duel?"
"Hey." Zicalus addressed all of the Japian warriors blocking the armory, with Moku standing close to him. "What are y'all doing?"
"We were just looking at Gabrielle-San spar with Kenji." One man explained.
"This is Gabrielle-San's time to train. Without gawking viewers." Zicalus smiled. "Withal, it is tempting, she must be given some amount of solitude."
"Yes, Master Zicalus." Most of the Samurai muttered as they all scattered to different locations on the huge vessel.
Zicalus espied Moku, waiting to glimpse his facial features after entering the armory and finding Gabrielle whirling her staff 'round. Moku's eyes widened somewhat while they drew closer to the scarlet-clad Amazon and the monk.
"Master Moku, and, Master Zicalus." Kenji bowed, breaking Gabrielle's concentration.
"Kenji, Gabrielle-San." Zicalus greeted.
Moku tilted his head in greeting also.
"Good evening." Gabrielle halted her actions. "What brings you guys here?"
"We came to speak with Kenji about a small matter." Zicalus explicated. "Only if you two are finished sparring."
"Yes." Kenji asserted. "We can go at it again tomorrow, Gabrielle-San."
"I look forward to it, Kenji."
Bowing to one another, the monk took footsteps to the men who came for his aid.
"I'll go with Kenji. You can cuddle up to Gabrielle-San." Moku had quietly spoken in Zicalus' ear, causing the younger man to redden.
"Kenji, Moku will inform you of what is needed." Zicalus professed.
Exiting the armory alongside Kenji, Moku bestowed a thumb up to Gabrielle, prior to closing the doors.
"He was saying you are awesome." Zicalus apprised her.
The bard recalled the morning she went searching for Xena and ran into Moku. The purple armored Samurai had gently guided her by the arm to the concealed section that took her to the lower fourth tier, not speaking a word the entire time.
"He can...though it pains him to do so." Zicalus intoned.
"It's wonderful you both can still communicate without Moku using much verbalization."
"Yes, we have that bond. Whereas, I do miss chatting with him like we use to." Zicalus became gloomy.
Gabrielle placed her hand on his shoulder. "He's alive, Zicalus. That's the most important factor out of it all."
Grinning his concurrence, the light green-eyed Samurai wanted to alter the sullen mood. "Thanks, Gabrielle-Chan. You seem to know all the right things to say."
"I try." Gabrielle looked at his attire. "You have on your armor. I take it you have come here to train as well."
"Yes." He consented. "I was going to go with Kenji and Moku, then come back to get some exercises in. Instead, Moku told me he would go with Kenji alone. I surmised that you would be training with the Shogun."
"He received urgent news today." Gabrielle expressed. "So, in a way I have a free day to do what I want. That's why Kenji and I practiced together."
"I remember you telling me you and Kenji contend with each other on days the Shogun is unable to attend."
"Mm-hmm." Gabrielle assented, walking over to the shelves that held the staves, placing Kenji's broken staff and hers on it. "I'm thinking about going below the tiers. I want to visit a friend."
"Xena Sama?" Zicalus prompted.
"No." Gabrielle stressed strongly.
"Oh, sorry for assuming."
"It's okay, Zicalus." She didn't intend on upsetting him. "I'm going to the stables."
"Perchance I could join you." Zicalus wanted to spend more moments with the pretty female.
"I rather be by myself. Besides, you have to get yourself into top form again."
"I guess you are right." Zicalus felt dismayed.
Recognizing the saddened tone, Gabrielle avowed, "If the Shogun remain indisposed, I'll train with you tomorrow evening."
"Alright." Zicalus was jovial. "It'll be amazing if your initiative aptitude wears off on me."
Gabrielle grinned at the phrase and bowed. "So long, Zicalus."
Inclining his head, too, Zicalus repeated, "So long, Gabrielle-Chan."
Gabrielle climbed down the ladder, nearly forgetting which direction the stables were in.
'The right path takes you to the galley. Left leads you to the stalls.' She deduced.
Knowing Kenji would be bringing her breakfast and fresh water in the mornings, Gabrielle had gone there four days ago to retrieve her night shift after she grew wary of sleeping naked. The Samurai in training was usually awake when the monk entered her cabin, but she didn't want to risk him catching a peek of her nude body, for that would be awkward. Strolling to her preferred locale, she beheld Tanya traipsing towards her.
"Gabrielle." Tanya uttered.
"I just came from my steed's stall. Are you going to see Xena?"
"No, I'm checking on Argo." Gabrielle specified, moving onwards.
"Xena is also there with her mare." Tanya confirmed.
Gabrielle's movements stopped. "She is in the stables?"
"Yea. She was reading your scrolls at first. Now, she's talking with Kenji." Tanya divulged.
"What is Kenji doing down here? Last I seen, he was with a Samurai." Gabrielle was baffled.
"The horrid looking guy in the purple robe?" Tanya alluded to Moku. "If that's who you are referencing to, then yes, they were in each other's company. After he had departed, Xena wanted to converse with Kenji and demanded I leave Brownie to talk with him in private."
Gabrielle neglected the affront generated by Tanya's enunciation of Moku's disfigurement. She didn't like it, but chose to let it pass this time. Xena, nevertheless, was the center of her consternation.
"Well, I'll come back later." The bard started going back the way she came.
"Hold on, Gabrielle." Tanya implored, following her. "Can you do me a big service?"
"It's all according."
"I want to be a part of Xena's sessions with the Samurai, but she shot me down. Can you perhaps, persuade her into letting me join?" Tanya urged.
"That's not a good idea, Tanya."
Gabrielle had chosen not to share specifics. "I cannot."
Tanya became persistent. "You are the sole person in all the world she'll listen to."
"You are wrong." Gabrielle's mental wall was at a breaking point. "I can't help you."
"I don't understand you. Is it trouble in y'alls happy paradise or something?"
That sentence made Gabrielle focus her agitation on Tanya. "Are you, stupid, dumb, moronic? I reckon all the above. I can't succor you because I do not want to. Now, get away from me."
The teenager's footfalls ceased. She was shocked at Gabrielle's intonation.
"Fine! I'll speak to Kenji about it!" Tanya exclaimed.
Gabrielle ignored her whilst ascending the ladder, dismally contemplating what she hadn't wished for in a long time, 'I should have left this fucking ship.'
To Be Continued
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