In which the leader of a gang of outlaws returns to the monastery of his youth, to claim his rightful place.
In a wicked age, in land far, far away, Leto, the bandit chieftain, is making his way across a muddy plane. Raindrops prick his skin like needles. He is dragging a wooden plank tied to a rope, and on it a sack large enough to hold a small person. A soft green glow seems to emanate from within the sack's coarse cloth.
Ahead of him, in the distance, a rocky cliff protrudes skywards, and on it lies the old and prestigious Monastery of the Five Winds. Home to the Order of the Blameless Blade. From the monastery's side projects a steeple, contrasting the curved sweeping roofs of the monastery with its sharp angles. In its top, surrounded by am eerie green glow, is the study of the immortal sorcerer, Einshem, who will pay him handsomely for the content of the sack. More handsomely than even an immortal sorcerer can afford, if things go according to plan.
Suddenly, from behind a tree, a figure in the silken robes of a high ranking bureaucrat steps out to block his path. It is Hans, a judge from a distant province, with his own designs upon the content of the sack. And before Leto's puzzled gaze, the judge's stern eyes turn a magical lilac, as they penetrate his very soul. Between them a black basalt rock juts from the mud, almost begging for a head to crack over it.
“You should give me the sack”, explodes the lilac stare into Leto's mind. “You have always wanted to give me the sack”. Leto resists. He has to get the sack to the sorcerer. Has to get his book. Has to expose the bitch“. But he feels his will weakening, and another burst of lilac almost brings him to his knees. With a final effort he tears away from the gaze, but something inside his mind snaps and injures. Then he starts running, with the improvised mud sled dragging its precious cargo behind him.
With a sigh, Hans straightens his silks and walk back towards his entourage.
Leto is still confused (and still running) when he gets to the front gate of the monastery, where an armor clad figure blocks his way - everybody seems to get in his way today! - so it takes him a second to recognize Jack Jackarta, the aging and demented head of the order. When Leto stops, the sack behind him makes a short sound, like someone stepping on a bunch of cats. He takes a moment to collect his breath and thoughts, and then gets straight to the point.
”Shitaki is playing you for a fool“, he says. “The conniving cunt needs to be stopped”.
“That's what you say to your old Sensei after twenty years?!”, demands Jack.
“It's been ten, but yes. Have you never wondered why I left?”
“Can't concern myself with every junior that doesn't have the willpower to continue.”
“You letters said otherwise.”
The old master gestures derisively.
“Look, I have a young woman here, in the sack”.
“You killed her”, says the master, half asking half just saying.
“No! Of course not! I'll give her to the evil sorcerer, so I can get my hands on…”
From the corner of his eye, Jack notices a young monk, still a child, approaching the gate from within. It's the infamously curious Aie Bwau, who stops as soon as he notices the conversation and steps back behind a pillar to eavesdrop.
“You are aware of the evil sorcerer living in this monastery, right?”, continues Leto.
“I don't think he is actually evil”, interrupts a young voice from behind a pillar, and then catches himself and shuts up.
“Little grasshopper”, intones Mad Jack, “come hither… Have you completed your assignments?”
Aie steps forward with a bow and smiles proudly. “Of course. With extra training on my dim mak and dragon kata!”
Jack's draws his blade faster than the eye can see, and it's as if the sword materialized in his hand, it's point pressing against the child's throat without drawing blood. “Well then”, he almost hisses, “you had best get back to it. Now”.
Aie pales, and prepares to flee, but Leto interrupts. “What makes you say he isn't evil?”
At the sound of the question, the child seems to forget the blade at his throat and ponders shortly. “Well, for starters”, he begins, “if he were evil he would not get along with the order - we do good things here. Help people and such”.
“Have you ever been to his study?”, interrogates Leto.
“No! Of course not!”, protests Aie, suddenly remembering Jack's sword. “We are not allowed to go there”. Then his thoughts catch on a tangent and he turns his head, twisting his neck against the blade, and hastily asks “what's in the sack?”
Only slightly slower than before, Jack twists his sword, removing it from Aie's throat and smacking the flat of it hard against Aie's buttocks. Aie muffles a scream, reddens, and starts walking away while loudly complaining about the moralistic wrongness of abusing one's students. Leto tries to call him back, but Jack has fucking had it with these youngsters and their blatant lack of respect to authority. “This place is really going to shits”, he thinks as he slams the large wooden gate in Leto's face.
Exhausted, offended, wet and annoyed, Leto makes his way to the back door of the monastery, where he very much hopes to not be disturbed. A small curved roof protects him from the pouring rain as he reaches to open the door. A slight smell of rotting flash drifts from beyond it.
Behind him, the green glow of the sack is getting stronger. The cloth begins to vibrate. He only turns when the buzzing from within the sack finally overcomes that of the raindrops crashing on the roof, and as he turns the sack bursts open and a swarm of fireflies explode out of it.
When the fireflies scatter, they reveal a young girl behind them. Her name is Megan O'connell, and a firefly is crawling out her mouth and flying away just as she looks at Leto, splays her palms and neuralizes him. The confused Leto, mind-raped for the third time in less than an hour, gets really pissed and grabs Megan's foot. As the foot comes off with a loud *POP*, leaving Leto with a prosthetic in his hand, confusion is no longer adequate and he is forced to resort to astonishment. Then he knocks her upside the head with her own prosthetic, hoists her over his shoulder and drags her to a remote room within the monastery where he ties her down and waits for her to wake up.
When she does, he sits her down for a talk and tries to convince her that she should stay his prisoner and help him make the trade with Einshem, because he is such an evil sorcerer. Over the sound of the rain a dog is heard barking madly from the yard. She readily agrees, but then again, she is the very definition of a captive audience.
Outside, Einshem the sorcerer is stepping outside, to see what all the noise is about. Apparently Lily, the magical dog who searcheth reins and hearts and knows hidden truths, has come to the monastery to sniff things out and make sure all is safe for its master and his entourage. And discovering an evil presence, it does what any magical dog would, and barks its canine ass off.
As soon as the dog sees the sorcerer, it jumps at his throat, but the sorcerer vanishes into a puff of powder and reappears behind the dog, ready to cast a silencing spell at its neck. But the dog, with the reflexes of a cat and the teeth of a circular saw, turns around and bites the wizard's left arm off at the base.
At the top of the steeple, just outside Einshem's chamber of secrets, Low Pun is hunched at the door, listening intently. From one side of a corridor he can hear Shitaki's staccato sweeping, from the other a slight hissing sound, like a tired old snake, and from within the soft echoes of Einshem's snores, as he rests and tries to regrow his arm.
Low Pun opens the door very quietly and sneaks inside, but before he manges anything important Shitaki shows up at the door. “Have you come to help me clean?”, she asks skeptically and tosses Low Pun a rag. Low Pun catches it easily, but without making a show of it, which wins him one of Shitaki's rare smiles, and starts cleaning.
As he cleans, he moves things around, and at one point, when he thinks Shitaki isn't watching, he slips one of the less important books between his robes. Then, when he sees that there is no reaction, he approaches the forbidden book, the one that has detailed graphic instructions regarding the theft of demonic powers, and tries to switch it with the book in his robes.
Unfortunately for him, he is so taken with his clever scheme that he fails to notice Shitaki's sudden gesture, which causes the forbidden book to slide away and himself to grab the wrong book.
Not half an hour later, Megan and Leto make their way to the very same doorway. When they examine it they find a black, oily substance dripping from the door's hinges, and Megan rubs some of it on one of the pipes in her bagpipes, as a form of evil lubricant. Then she sits down, and lets Leto tie her up in loose knots, out of which she can easily slip.
Seeing that Einshem is asleep and without Shitaki's protection (she really can't babysit him 24/7), Leto reaches for the same forbidden book and takes it, but the magical defence on the book wakes Einshem up. Leto pretends everything is alright, and when Einshem wishes to pay him for bringing him Megan he refuses, claiming that he wants nothing more to do with this foul smelling business, and tries to get out of the room - at which point Einshem realized his book is missing and cries out in anger.
To the sound of his cry, Mad Jack Jackarta steps in, and decides to defend the local wizard and attack the two outsiders. His swords fly in a silvery dance, and dozens of shallow wounds appear all over Megan's body, starting to bleed profusely, but Leto - suddenly resolute to protect Megan - bolts to interfere and gets stabbed in the shoulder.
Einshem casts a spell on Megan, tightening her knots and pinning her to the wall, and Jack, who just broke his own rule of never cutting deeper than 5mm, goes fucking ape-shit and starts swinging his swords everywhere. He nearly hits Einshem, who teleports in a powdery puff to the other side of the room, and then misses Leto who dodges Einshem's magical bolt and runs outside, carrying the forbidden book (minus a few unimportant pages, torn by Einshem at the last moment).
Jack is mentally exhausted by all this crap.
In a small service closet, half heartedly converted into a tiny office, Shitaki is most surprised to find a large magical dog sitting at her desk. A silver ring of fur decorates the tip of its tail, and a piece of cloth from Einshem's sleeve still hangs at the side of its mouth. Shitaki pretends not to notice it, walks around, and when the dog turns to growl at her she grabs a rope (an improvised leash to one of the many dogs she caught and cooked) and loops it around the dog's neck.
As she pulls the dog, preparing to toss it outside, it starts talking in human tongue and tells her that its former master is gone and that it is a ronin now, in search of a new master. Shitaki weighs her options, and eventually keeps the dog at her side, after it swears its allegiance to her.
Little does she know that Einshem has taken a vow to slay the dog's master.
As a first task, Shitaki demands that the dog help her find the outsider who has been causing all the trouble, and it faithfully brings her do Leto's hideout, just outside the monastery, before it fucks off to its dogly business.
Leto tries to confront Shitaki about his removal from the order, but she merely states that it is best if he leaves and never comes back again. Then she offers to check his status with one of the teachers (she being but a humble house keeper), closes the gate in his face, locks it properly and hides somewhere she can keep an eye on things.
Leto sneaks around to the same back door, and when Shitaki tries to catch him he hides in a pantry. Shitaki locks the pantry and summons a few high ranking teachers to help her with the intruder. When they arrive, she opens the door and Leto is caught and dragged outside, where his knees are to be shattered as an educational measure.
Leto only start resisting once he is outside, but then he really kicks some ass. After dispensing with the lynch mob he walks through the air in Hong Kong action cinema style, reaching a top balcony, where his final challenge awaits in the form of Shitaki's top student, Aie Bwau. They tussle a bit, but then Leto slips back into the monastery before the fight really gets going.
As the last rays of the setting sun hit the ageless walls of the monastery, a great sigh of exhaustion heaves from Shitaki's withered lips. She is getting to old for this shit.
At his hideout, within the monastery, Leto is trying to collect his thoughts. The ropes that once tied Megan are lying coiled on the floor, throwing snaky shadows by the flickering torchlight, when suddenly a scraping is heard at the door. As he turns, the door opens and the vicious Lily paws its way in, filling the room with the smell of wet dog.
“You have offended my new mistress”, growls the dog, while Leto - sick and tired of talking - launches a tremendous kick at its head. The dog lunges at the foot and bites it, but Leto, bending his leg up, forces the beasts jaws open, nearly dislocating them, and grapples the dog into submission, somehow shoving a rope right through the poor animal's alimentary canal.
“Go to your mistress, pup”, whispers Leto. “Go tell her who put you in your place, and how. Tell her I'll be coming for her next”.
Back in Einshem's sanctum, heavily lacerated Megan has freed herself from her bonds. On the floor before her is a strange stain is smeared on the carpet. It is almost the color of partially dried blood, except that it has a weird colourful tint, changing colors as she observes it and meditates.
Mad Jack Jackarta left the room in fury as soon as Leto made his exit. Einshem vanished into a puff of powder a second later. And Leto… Leto who kidnapped her, then asked for her help which she wholeheartedly lent him, has left her behind at the mercy of Einshem the second he managed to get his damn book.
Her white brow furrows. Revenge seems to be in order.
But for real revenge, the kind that leaves the monastery in ruins and its occupants in eternal torment, she requires assistance. So she lets a firefly escape her mouth, and as the insect hovers before her she whispers three times in well rehearsed sequence: “call her now to me”. And no sooner does the firefly zoom out the window than the acrid scent of sulfur rises in her nostrils, and a voluptuous demoness rises in a yellow billow of smoke.
“What the hell happened to you, little sister?”, the shocked demoness howls. “This evil sorcerer sent someone to kidnap me”, Megan starts explaining, “so I decided to go along with it and get the sorcerer, but then…”
“You what?!” Imogen O'connell grabs Megan's ear and starts pulling. “Do you have any idea what you've put us through? Do you realize that MOTHER is somewhere near? You are coming home right fucking now, where I will teach you how to let yourself be kidnapped, you reckless little runt!”, and then she speaks a word of diabolical magic and a cloud of smoke wraps around them.
But Megan resists. She knows her sister's magic, and she foils it, and the two sisters reappear on the roof of Einshem's minaret. Megan calls forth her swarm and kicks off the roof along with her sister, dropping them to a slide formed of fireflies. They almost make it to the ground when Imogen shoves her flaming claws into her sister's side, shooting a fountain of pain into her spine and breaking the swarm, dropping them both to the ground - Imogen on her feet, Megan curled up in a fetal ball of suffering.
From the ground, wordlessly, Megan points at the window she tried to guide them to. Imogen looks through the window and sees Leto, turning the pages of an ancient grimoire. “Is that the cocksucker who kidnapped you, little sis?”, inquires the pain demoness. “It is”, answers Megan in a small voice. “Very well. We hurt him now. We school him. We hurt him real good. And then you are coming home with me, like a good little girl”.
Megan nods silently, a single tear gliding down her sinister eyelid.
Leto, in his hiding place, is studying the stolen book as the rain thumps loudly on the thatched roof. So great his concentration, he barely notices the green flash when a swarm of green glowing fireflies tears through the night and explodes right outside the window, releasing two human-ish forms to the earth. But when one of them screws her head to the window and fixes her gaze - literally glowing with a cold, yellow fire - upon his person, he notices enough to quickly shove the book in the back of his pants and bravely run away into the heart of the monastery.
That is his plan, anyway. Before he makes it to the door, a plume of yellow smoke erupts from the floor before him, the smell of sulfur fills the room and the shapely form of Imogen fills the door frame. Leto turns, and sees Megan behind him, smiling innocently. He grabs her by her other foot, and tries to toss her at her sister. Her second leg comes off, just like the first, but not before he manages to hurl her with tremendous force against the wall.
Behind him, the enraged Imogen tries to stick her fiery claws into his back and pierce his heart with her demonic torture-aura, but alas… Leto's back is protected by one powerful stolen grimoire, and the Imogen's spell backfires upon her increased ten folds. Flames engulf her, her skin bubbles and blackens and she drops silently to the floor.
Megan, in a last ditch attempt, crawls towards the bagpipes that she dropped. He legs are gone and her arms - that broke her impact against the wall - are shattered in a dozen places, but with her mouth she manages to snap off the pipes from the bag, and magically connects them to her shoulders and hips. Thus, grotesquely, she rises on her new feet and walks menacingly towards Leto. Who kicks the shit out of her pipes, breaking them and sticking them back in her flesh, the hard, non magical way. Then he takes the bag of the bagpipes, rips it and wraps it around the human pincushion's head.
Outside, the storm is nearing its inevitable climax.
Shitaki, in her secret service closet, is tending her wounded dog. As she applies ointments and lubricants she can hear, between the rolling thunders, slight hissing, and the creaking of wooden beams outside the room. Ng Mui is near.
And then footsteps, and some clanking. It is Leto, building a sacrificial pyre, placing a great pot over it, and placing the well wrapped Megan within it. Megan does not make a sound, but she appears to start melting. Then Leto produces the grimoire from his pants, and starts reading a passage in some strange demonic tongue.
Ng Mui, the monastery's sacred, gigantic, albino, blind and extremely pregnant snake uncoils from a beam above him, lowering herself headfirst. As Leto chants the cloudy white of her eyes seems to clear up. The spell is restoring her eyesight. But Shitaki will have none of this! She slips outside the room, and silently slides behind Leto, bringing the stick of her broom to rest on his adam's apple, ready to smash his windpipe.
The dog, at the same time, lets out an angry growl and hurls itself at the serpent, jaws agape, aiming at what he judges to be the fattest, most pregnant part. Ng Mui is so disoriented by suddenly being able to see, that she doesn't even move. Lilly locks its jaws on the snake's belly and vigorously shakes its head. The canine teeth tear into the serpent's abdomen, revealing dozens of slimy soft shelled eggs. Ng Mui dies, releasing her death curse with a hauntingly human scream of sheer agony.
Leto, dismayed as hell, grabs the broomstick at his throat and starts wrestling with Shitaki, while the dog tears pieces of snake flesh and bites snake eggs that burst with satisfying popping sounds, putting an end to Leto's dreams of using the snake's political influence to get Shitaki fired or something.
Only when Leto, in his rage, manages to flip Shitaki over his back and onto the floor, does the dog leave his playthings and rush to his mistress's assitance and lunges at Leto, Ng Mui's noxious black blood still smeared on its bared fangs. But Leto pulls on the broom, lifting Shitaki and placing her between himself and the dog, which forces the latter into some pretty extreme breaking maneuvers just to avoid biting and possibly poisoning its own mistress. Then Leto twists the broom out of Shitaki's hands and brings it to bear upon her own throat. “It's over, bitch”, he explains simply. “I won”.
Shitaki, in exchange for her life, instated Leto as the new Supreme Sensei, or Senpai, or whatever. She and her dog were banished to the mountains, where they probably got on each other's nerves pretty damn quick.
Leto has been far less covert in running the monastery, and has taken to hanging out with the young students and letting his moustache grow notoriously long.
Jack did not notice the changes in staff.
Megan and Imogen were presumably reunited in hell.
Low Pun still hasn't gotten around to reading that book.
Ng Mui's death curse occasionally haunts the monastery.
Einshem is still missing.
Four of Clubs: A girl with green eyes, kidnapped to be the bride of an immortal sorcerer.
Ten of Diamonds: A prestigious monastery, home to an order of warrior ascetics.
Jack of Hearts: A swordsman from a distant province, concealing his broken heart behind a stern visage.
Four of Spades: A Court Judge, traveling with his wives and entourage, seeking refuge from a sudden storm.
A green eyed lassie, in league with Lucifer.
Neuralyzer: Far reaching for others. She does the jazz hands, and suddenly you are not certain what exactly was it that ya'll been up to.
Fuck Einshem to death with her bagpipes.
Destroy the monastery, killing as many of its inhabitants as demonically possible and sending their screaming souls to hell!
Round and yellow.
Nightcrawling: Far Reaching, for himself. Can teleport over short distances.
Steal Megan's virtue, power and soul with a dark and ancient rite.
Take vengeance on the magical dog by killing its master.
The ruthless leader of a gang of outlaws.
Bolt: Potent and direct. He just runs real fast.
Expost Shitaki and get her banished from the monastery.
Steel Einshem's Great Grimoire.
Crazed Head Knife to an order of warrior ascetics.
Clear-cut Blade: <form> <significance> Very precise with knifes, uses a swordsmanship that prohibit cuts deeper than 5mm.
An old cleaning lady at a prestigious monastery, secretly the supreme senpai of the warrior order.
Broom of Doom: Covertly potent. Invisible bursts of chi. A shadowy corridor in the monastery. An old woman is slowly sweeping the floor with her twig broom. For a brief moment her gaze unseeingly fixed on the far end of the corridor. Her posture changes slightly, a dry leaf rises from the floor in the middle of the corridor and slowly falls back down, while she continues to sweep. A crushed scorpion is lying on the far corner of the corridor.
Shitaki sama likes everything to be in order. She doesn't like things to change.
Format Leto's memory of anything related to the Order of the Blameless Blade.
A student of martial arts, joined the order of warrior ascetics as preparation to become and evil mastermind. Good friend to Aie Bwau.
Minions: Broad for myself with love.
Use Einshem's dark ritual to steal Megan's demonic powers before him.
An obstinate dog, watching over a heartbroken swordsman.
Lockjaw: Potent with violence.
Get rid of the evil sorcerer.
Present his new mistress with the testicles of her presumptuous ex-student.
A corrupt judge who likes to fuck with people.
Plant notion: Far reaching for myself. His eyes turn lilac, and a new thought is born inside your head.
Take Shitaki's Broom by brainwashing her into believing she is just the maid.
Rescue Megan, his illegitimate child.
Passive aggressive mother to Einshem the Sorcerer. Not yet over the loss of her husband, and certainly not planning to lose her son to some green-eyed slut.
Polish Delight: Broad maneuvering and protection. Hand on her poor, poor heart, face shocked, eyes rolled backwards, and a single sentence that makes you realize exactly how awful a son you are.
Kill Megan and thus make sure her son never leaves home.
A demoness and half-sister to Megan, very not into the whole being nice thing.
Queen of Pain: Potent action. Her limbs fly with exquisite precision to cause her victim the optimal amount of pain. “You don't get it, boy. This isn't a mudhole. It's an operating table. And I'm the surgeon.”
Flay Leto's skin, hang it in ribbons where everyone can see it and learn not to fuck with the O'connell girls, and then kill him.
Get her baby sister back home, to be locked and leashed.
A young prodigy in an order of warrior ascetics, dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and to his good friend, Low Pun.
Methods of Rationality: Potent maneuvering. Cool headed in the heat of the moment, he matter-of-factly explains how he knew you were gonna do what you did, and was therefore ever so ready for it.
Depose Mad Jack from his position in the order and replace him with someone less crazy and more controllable.
Prevent Low Pun from fulfilling his dream of becoming an evil mastermind.
The Sacred Serpent of a prestigious monastery. Blind as a bat, fierce as an eagle, crafty as a snake. And pregnant as a whale.
Snake Eyes: Far reaching maneuvering. The gaze of those milky dead eyes can change your destiny. Usually for the worst. She stares blindly at the scorpion, feeling the tappings of his feet on the marble floor. The scorpion stops, turns, and walks into the corridor - straight towards the old cleaning lady.
Lay her brood within Shitaki Sama's decomposing body.
Formerly Singa, who broke the heart of a foreign swordsman, now a silent soldier of fortune, taking dubious jobs in dubious places.
Ninja: Potent action. A true warrior of the night. - “So what are you proposing? That you simply waltz in at the dead of night and kill 57 highly trained guards, just so that we can place the horse's head in his bed?” - “Absolutely. I really think it sends the right kind of message.”
Rob his ex lover, the judge he was hired to protect, and kill all his other wives and his annoying dog, which used to piss him off when he was still a young woman.
Long time steward to the great sorcerer Einshem, last scion to a long and respectable line of menservants, clearly up to no fucking good.
Ring of Ancestral Assistance: Far reaching maneuvering. A magical ring, with which one can guilt-trip one's ancestral spirits into assisting one. “Great aunt Sunn”, mumbles the young man while rubbing his ring, “ever since you gave me that pullover for my birthday I knew you don't really like me, so I'm not gonna even ask you to help me with this one. Even though it is your scientific speciality. And it's not like you got anything else to do, being dead and all…”
Murder a judge and blame it on his master, so he will spend his next few decades of immortality behind bars.