"So... you wanted to say something?"
William turned around with an huge smile."Yes indeed I wanted to thank you for saving my life.
16 years ago you somehow ended up in one of the poorest districts in the land. And when you went exploring you found an passed out little boy who was scared of you and starving. Even though he was scared you still shared some of your bread with him. That boy was me Claire. So just as you have saved my life by giving me enough food to survive that day. I swore that I would one day return the favor. So I swear upon my life that I will defend you until I have payed my debt in full." He then kneeled before her. "My sword is yours to command." William remembered that he had sworn to her 16 years ago that he would pay his debt. And William never broke his word.
Claire took a step back as he kneeled before her, proclaiming his oath. Now Claire was confused. What was he talking about? She had never been to any "poor district" and while she had been more then willing to give away bread as a child - something her father never stopped talking about - she couldn't remember saving anyone. "I... I don't... What are you talking about? I haven't been to a poor district... and your a Phoenix! - what would you even be doing starving on a street in a poor district?" she said, trying to escape the... awkward situation. "Even if what you said is true, you must have me mistaken with someone else." she said, glancing around; dazed by the strange event.
After a few moments of stuttering like a fool, she recovered herself. She was a Montaigne! She shouldn't be reacting this way - it was unbecoming. Retuning to her firm diplomatic voice, she straightened herself and set about fixing this strangeness. "You're the commander of this unit - you cannot swear an oath like this to your subordinate; to do so is to place one of our lives above the others, and worse, your duty. If what you say is, by some twist of fate, true, then stand up - your oath fulfilled and never speak of this again." she finished before turning and marching in the direction of the fire, trying to escape the situation with all the speed she could.
Why can't I teleport myself yet? she thought, in her rush to escape, wishing she had such a power.
"I... I don't... What are you talking about? I haven't been to a poor district... and your a Phoenix! - what would you even be doing starving on a street in a poor district? Even if what you said is true, you must have me mistaken with someone else. You're the commander of this unit - you cannot swear an oath like this to your subordinate; to do so is to place one of our lives above the others, and worse, your duty. If what you say is, by some twist of fate, true, then stand up - your oath fulfilled and never speak of this again." She then turned and waked away. William however wasn't planning on making her escape that easily. He made an smoke screen temporary stunning her he quickly running in front of her as the smoke screen disappeared.
William looked her straight in the eye as he said."It seems you do not know the story of my family. My father and I made all the wealth that we have right now from nothing. The first 8 years of my life I spend on the street the son of an beggar.
And I could never mistake you for another. I remember your face as I looked up to see who shared her bread with me. You looked like an angel who had descended upon the earth. I could never forget the sight of my savior.
And last of all my word is more important then my duty. I have sworn my oath to you 16 years ago. I never go back on my word. So until I safe your life I owe you mine." William waited for her reaction. He had hoped this would have gone a little different, with her remembering but it seemed like fate wasn't done playing with him just yet.
Claire coughed as she inhaled the smokescreen. When she finally stopped coughing, she found herself face to face with William, rebuking her statement, giving his family history, talking about how she had been like an angel, and blocking her return to the safety of the fire. Worse, doing the math, she would have been 4 or 5 at the time of it all - for all she knew, what he was saying was the absolute truth; she just could not recall it. Her confusion was quickly turning to fear... What is he trying to do? she thought taking a step back, trying to get away, only to be blocked from her retreat.
Then he said it. "And last of all my word is more important then my duty." She was dumbstruck by the statement, letting him finish. By the time he said his last words, she was no longer afraid; she was seething with rage. His statement was unacceptable! In making that statement, he had declared her life more valuable then their compatriots, their country, and their mission. It spat in the face of everything she stood for! As a commissioned soldier, as a Montaigne, as a human, she could not stand for such irresponsible indiscretion from her commanding officer. She calmly drew her riding glove from her hand and slapped it across his face - a clear challenge for a duel. Then, her calm facade broke.
"You dare speak like that! You, the commanding officer of a unit that's less then a pawn in this war! You say I am somehow more important then this mission and our brothers and sister in arms like it's honorable and noble! You say it to a Montaigne, who put their lives on the line for such duty; to maintain peace! I cannot stand for it. If your sword is indeed at my command, then I command you draw it, for I will not stand for such a dishonor!" Her hand reached for her blade; ready to draw should he accept her challenge.
She seemed shocked at his statement. she then grabbed her riding glove and William knew what would come next. She slapped him in the face with her glove challenging him to an duel. He remained calm."You dare speak like that! You, the commanding officer of a unit that's less then a pawn in this war! You say I am somehow more important then this mission and our brothers and sister in arms like it's honorable and noble! You say it to a Montaigne, who put their lives on the line for such duty; to maintain peace! I cannot stand for it. If your sword is indeed at my command, then I command you draw it, for I will not stand for such a dishonor!"
"As you wish, I will fight you." William grabbed his 1 first sword and his shield. He did an few steps back and waited for her to start the duel. He was not about to lose to her even if she didn't react the way he would have liked. He still owed her his life so he would fight her if she wished. However she shouldn't have asked him to fight, he wasn't going to hold back and even though she was strong she hadn't trained for this on the same level as he did. He was ready to roll away at an moments notice so he could dodge any teleport slashes.
Claire drew her blade, a smirk on her face. At least he was no coward. shifting into a fencing stance, she channeled her power opening a small rift beside her arm; ready to absorb and redirect any strike it caught. This was a duel, so she refused to use her power for any other reason. She wouldn't have used it at all, were it not for her lack of main-gauche.
Thereafter, she announced " en garde!" and bolted forward. She knew William was likely the better swordsman, but she felt confident the gap was not so great she couldn't overcome it - especially given her motivation. She wouldn't lose! She couldn't lose! This was a fight to defend her honor. He had insulted her and her entire family in placing her life before his duty; this was not a fight she could afford to lose.
Keeping her fencing stance, she thrust and stabbed, each blow in rapid succession, pushing him back toward the fire. If nothing else, she would keep him off balance until he made a mistake; the painful lessons about duty would follow.
She had a smirk on her face as she grabbed her sword. William didn't understand this woman at all but she made an fatal mistake. He was an better swordsman and he had 2 weapons instead of 1. He held the advantage no matter how you looked at it. " en garde!" She screamed as she charged. She began a series of thrust and stabs. She had an far too high opinion of herself he blocked her attacks without much effort and began to walk back to make her think that she was winning. William had been taught to kill not to fight. He had already seen 3 opportunities to kill her but he would never do such an thing during a duel.
He waited for her pattern to repeat itself and when it did he he blocked the sword strike with his shield. but then he sidestepped to the right as her momentum was already gone his wasn't. He hit her sword with full power of his left arm combined into the steel edge of his shield, forcing her to make her blade go to his left/her right. He quickly stabbed his sword forward aiming for her chest. There was no way she could dodge. And if she used her power she would have broken the duel rules and then he would be allowed to use more 'effective tricks'. He would of course stop before hitting her, he wouldn't kill her or hurt her if it could be avoid.
It had been going quiet well. she was slowly pushing him back, wearing him down. Then she saw it - the look in his eye. He raised his shield and she suddenly knew exactly what he was going to do. She saw her plans undone, her dismay evident. pivoting out of the way, he used her momentum to get behind her. He brought his shield down slamming her sword into the ground with more force then she could resist, then brought his sword to bare against her - aiming for her chest. The look on his face showed he was confident in his victory. Claire read an air of smugness in it, though it might have been her mind looking to create it. She could see several ways to escape, but few to claim a victory. She could release her sword and forfeit the match - she would die before that however. She could try to twist away from the blade, but it would be unlikely to work. she could use her powers, but in doing so she would be no better then her opponent. It left her with two options: accept her loss, or fight the one way she could with honor.
Their was no choice - she would fight on the one way she could - testing his skills and resolve. using his shield as a fulcrum, she pulled at the foil. It snapped like a twig. In the same move, she pushed forward into his incoming strike. If he lacked the skill, the sword would pierce her chest and smite her; he would win the fight but undo his own so important oath. If he had the resolve, he would pull away and protect his oath by losing, thus breaking it like her blade. Meanwhile, if his blade struck her down, she would have no further need of her blade, if she succeeded it would be a worthy sacrifice to defend her honor - she would see it reforged as soon as she had the chance, and if by some chance she still lost the exchange but lived - she was unworthy of carrying such a blade.
One way or another, this would be the last strike - she would need to make it count.
She had snapped her sword and was trying to finish this in one attack. He however was impressed by her again. For someone who found duty and honor so important she had no problem shattering an family heirloom. He simple jumped back and avoided her strike. When she fell he placed his sword on neck. "You lost. At least have the honor of admitting defeat." He looked at her with an cold look in his eyes. He kept his distance though so if she was to strike he would simply block her strike and hit the sword out of her hand.
"You lost. At least have the honor of admitting defeat." William said with a cold look. One more insult she realized with annoyance - but one she deserved. She looked at her blade - a symbol of what she stood for, broken and beaten - now of less value then a dagger. She'd used everything she had, every ounce of her power; or at least what power she could use with honor. Yet, the sword at her neck signaled the end of the fight. It was over; she would at least end it with what broken honor she still had.
"I surrender" she said, after a long while of lying upon the ground, her voice barely audible. "Now leave" she said her voice firmer. She would honor his judgement and his oath - such were the conditions of a duel like this - but she had other business to deal with; namely gathering the shattered remains of her blade and her honor to see what could be salvaged.
After standing there for an while she said."I surrender" she said though the words sounded more then a whisper. She then said with an firmer tone."Now leave". William bowed his head. It is clear she doesn't want my help so it is better to just leave her. "As my lady wishes." He began to walk back toward the camp. He walked back with an neutral expression on his face. He rejoined the people sitting around the fire. He began to eat his dinner in peace. He wonder how she was doing but he would see her soon enough.
Rias had sat back down and was eating, "this is good stuff, Claire sure know how to cook" she said eating in a somewhat unladylike manner
"this is good stuff, Claire sure know how to cook" William had to smile at this statement. He had an nagging feeling that his food would be burned from now on out. "She is indeed a good cook. So did I miss anything?" William was enjoying his dinner.
"So did I miss anything?"
"notta thing, been rather quiet" Rias said finishing her plate
"notta thing, been rather quiet" If only they knew."Well there is nothing wrong with a bit of peace and quite on a day such as this one." He also finished his plate. The meal had tasted good so he was in a better mood then before. He grabbed his sword and began to clean an maintain it. After he was done with his sword his shield was next, and after that his armor.
"As my lady wishes." William said, lifting his sword and returning to the campsite. She continued to lay on the ground for a while, staring at the sky through the trees. "I lost" she said aloud, hardly believing it. It made sense - he was the better swordsman - but it still seemed surreal. She didn't really want to move, but she knew she had to. After several more minutes, she picked herself up - if only to accomplish what she needed to get done. Moving the handful of steps to where she had made her last action, she gathered up the shattered pieces of metal that had been her sword, trying to focus on the task to keep her mind from other, more damning, thoughts.
"You deserved better." she said, carefully picking up the pieces, and slipping them one-by-one back into her sheath, finishing with the piece still attached to the hilt. When this was done, she returned to camp, her face stoic, hiding her emotions beneath the mask of a diplomat. She did her best to avoid William, not really ready to deal with him. She made it as far as the pile of supplies, where she picked up her tent; intent on putting it together and ending the day.
The next day after 2 hours of travel the group could see a village slightly off the road.
Claire had remained silent for most of their morning's trip. She had not slept well, tossing and turning at her failing the previous night, questioning herself and her reasoning. All aside however, the village was a welcomed sight; if only s a chance to acquire a new blade. She slowed her horse, letting it trot into the village at a lazy pace into the village; looking around to see who and what was there.
The village seemed fairly standard, one or two market stalls, a Inn, are general goods store and a blacksmith, though the blacksmith had no smoke coming from the forge, nor was there any noise coming from it. It appeared to be closed.
Rias had a troubled nights sleep, for what ever reason Claire's presence had drug up some unpleasant memory's that hindered her sleep, how ever, morning came and those memory's fade back to the dark corner of her mind where they generally stayed.
the 2 hour hike to the village was, uneventful, and rather boring, as there wasn't really anything interesting to look at, and the village it self was equally uninteresting, same village she'd seen a hundred times in other places.
"William? do you have a map of Ethsich on hand?"
William had gone to bed and hadn't said a word to anyone else. He hadn't slept much so the next day he was quite tired. Nobody had really said anything when they packed up and left. He had avoided Claire knowing she was still angry. The saw an town appear on the horizon after 2 hours of traveling.
"William? do you have a map of Ethsich on hand?"
William looked at Rias. "Uh maybe? I will go look." William began opening all of his bags. After about 5 minutes of searching he found it. He walked back to Rias smiling. "Here you go." He said as he gave her the map. I wonder if Claire is still mad?
Claire slipped off her horse and made her way toward the nearest market, intent on refreshing her supplies. Though they were no where near depleted, bringing themselves back to full only made sense. This was not her only motive however; she wanted to know what news there was of the surrounding region. One of these people had to know something right?
as Claire was shopping at one of the stalls the elderly woman running it said 'So what bring you out here? don't see many new people now a days, and suddenly three groups come in a week'
"thank you William" Rias said as she opened the map, it looked, about how she figured, lots of forest, and a few marked roads "your map makers really need to get out more" she said, mildly annoyed "we should go here" pointing to a random looking spot on the map "there's a village there, one of several I'm known" marking the spot on the map "hopefully, they'll still talk to me, if not, its a small village, so getting away shouldn't be to big an issue"
Claire looked at the elderly woman a bit surprised. Three groups? I wonder who else has passed this way." she thought before answering her. "my..." she started to say, before looking back ant the group. She had been about to say 'friends', but seeing William had ruined her use of such a word. To cover the awkward pause, Claire raised her hand and pointed at the group, then continued. "...companions and I are traveling to Ethsich on a foreign policy mission." she said. It was true, assuming you counted war as foreign policy. "I'm curious though, what others passed through before us? Also, might you know if the blacksmith will be opening soon; I find myself in need of a new foil." she asked, hoping to learn all she could, one question at a time.
"thank you William" "Sure no problem." She then proceed to give him commentary and advice. "hopefully, they'll still talk to me, if not, its a small village, so getting away shouldn't be to big an issue" "Well we will see, as everything stands now we can visit it. But if I receive additional mission objectives or something goes wrong we might not be able to visit it. Keep that in mind" William walked into the town and began looking around. As he saw Claire turn at him her face went sour. This is going to be a long day. He walked over to the general good store and entered it. He wanted to restock on supplies. He looked at the merchant to see from which trading company he got his goods.
'oh, the blacksmith... well one of the other groups that came were some governmental messengers. They told the blacksmith and all of his apprentices to pack up and come with them, something to do with using their craft to serve the country but if you ask me they should have at least left one in town, I mean Sera's front door lock broke last week. You wouldn't feel safe knowing your front door is left unlock.' The old lady then went off into a tangent talking about Sera the local flower girl.
The general goods store was run by a hansav, His skin was a very light brown with gren stripes across it, it wasn't part of any greater business 'Hello my good ssir, how may I be of sservicse to you today' he said as William entered the store.
William saw him standing there an hansav.'Hello my good ssir, how may I be of sservicse to you today' William had his convincing fake smile in his face. Off all the races why did it have to be an hansav? But at least he doesn't work with one of those groups."Hello to you good sir. What do you sell in the fine establishment of yours?" William walked inside still smiling fake, he looked around for food or other tools that might come in handy. The sooner I get this over with, the sooner I get to leave this store behind me.
'Well my good ssir we have a sseriouss of sspicsess, bassic farm toolss, ssome high quality ssteakss, provided by the local farmer Benjamin whoss wive, unfortunately passed away lasst year. A sselection of back packss made from the ssturdiesst leather, loafss of bread, and even' at this point the hansav pulled out the item form under the counter 'A high quality wurm tooth ssword, hand made, leather handle for grip and comfort, the local ssmith even made sure the metal handle was made around the root of the tooth to make sure the blade would not fall out during combat. It iss incredibly light, allowing for a fasster and more aggressive combat sstyle ass well ass making it eassier to carry. It iss also very sharp being able to even cut partially through mosst metalss. It iss alsso increadibly cheap going for only 700 gold coins' The shop keeper made sure to hold the sword just out of arms reach from william
Rias sighed, William completely missing the point of her suggestion, shrugging it off and went about correcting the map with the villages she knew of
By the end of the speech, Claire knew more about flowers and the art of selling them then she had ever desired to learn. None the less, she allowed the woman to finish her speech - it would be rude to interrupt her and Claire did not wish to be rude, less they attempt to run their small group out of town. Though, with Fromanzio... she thought, realizing her potential behavior was perhaps the least of their worries.
...and that's why roses should always be watered." The lady finish, smiling. Claire responded in kind. "I will have to remember that; thank you. It is quite the shame that you no longer have a blacksmith however. I'm afraid I had need of one to replace my blade. C'est la Vie I suppose." Claire said, letting it go - she could last without a blade for a while, as long as her crossbow held - it was her better weapon anyway. "If you don't mind me asking, who was the third group then?" Claire asked, curious who else had passed through the town this week - aside from the government messengers and their group of course.
'Oh well that would be a trio of travelling musicians, they arrived last night, they played some lovely music at the inn. One of them is a massive fellaw, looks like he could eat a cow, very good with the flute. If you need a sword I am sure the shop keeper has some left over.' The old lady replied
Fromanzio had pretty early on slipped away from the group. He had everything he needed still. His knives had been repaired and his bombs still numbered in the seventies. No, he planned to get drunk. The inn doors flew open as he entered. He peered around to see what it looked like inside.
The inn was rather empty, there was a rather muscular inn keeper cleaning a mug, though this inn keeper was dwarfed by the 7 ft behemoth of a man sitting on one of the stools, if it wasn't for the lack of any hair or claws one could easily mistake him for a sophronius. There were also a small number of locals spread through out the tables, though there was a clear circle around the giant man that was begin kept clear.