402 House of Tempest: Chiba the Swordmaster

    Chiba covered a yawn and started up the stairs to the second floor.  She had tried to leave several times over the past two hours, but Rabi and Sasi continually came up with reasons for her to stay. In the end, the Qi siblings fell asleep in the same chair, and the old woman was able to escape.

    "Nix!"  Chiba called his name when she entered the suite, a quick glance into his bedroom told her that he wasn't there.  "Damn dragon, she probably whisked him off.  This is training time, not f*ckaround time."

    She walked into her own bedroom and slipped the ring off her finger.  More and more she'd been taking it off, even though at one point, she had gone several years with it on.  She didn't notice the large magnum bottle until after she had changed into sleeping clothes.  It was placed on her pillow with a red ribbon tied to it.

    Chiba smiled and picked it up.  "At least he pays attention to my interests."  She unstoppered the cork and smelled the contents.  "Woah."  She blinked suddenly, rubbing her burning nose with her free hand.  "That's some serious hooch."

    An hour later, the woman lay face down on the floor.  A third of the bottle was empty. Chiba rolled onto her side, even though the movement took a lot of effort and immediately made her head spin.

    She held the red ribbon in one hand, smiling at it while she attempted to tie it around her finger. "My dear old Mum loves red ribbons.  She'd tie them in my hair before I went off to practice... "


    15 years Earlier, Eastern Jenzi.

    "Is it really necessary to continue on this path, Ellisand?"  The older woman ran a silver comb through her daughter's golden hair a few more times before she started braiding it.

    "Milamber says I have potential, that I'm the best student he has."  Elli waited while her mom tied the braid off with a red ribbon and then thanked her with a kiss on the cheek.

    "I just want you to be happy, Elli."

    ��This makes me happy. The sword feels comfortable in my hand. I feel different when I"m holding it. Not just a pretty portrait to be hung on the wall and stared at."

    "I don't want you involving yourself with that man, Elli.  He has a very sordid reputation."  Cela frowned at the silver brush.  "Why is this bent?  Have you been combing Chiba with it again?"

    Elli winked at the large wolfhound laying across her bed.  "Goodness no, Mother."

    The older woman frowned before shooing the dog.  "Get off the bed, Chiba."

    The dog obediently jumped down and immediately flopped on the floor, her long tail wagging.

    "Don't be late for dinner, Elli."

    "I won't." Elli strapped her sword on and hurried into the hallway.  The moment she left, the wolfhound jumped back onto the bed and went to sleep.


    Milamber laughed at his student. "Come on, it's fine to lose a practice spar but at least hold onto your sword!"

    Mikael flushed, his pale freckled face turning red. "My hands are sweaty, that's why I dropped it."

    "Elli seems to be able to hold onto hers."  Milamber moved onto the next pair.

    The ginger-haired student swiped the air with his sword. He hated being paired with Elli during practice, she learned new things almost immediately and was faster than anyone he'd ever seen.  "Again, Elli."

    An hour later the lesson ended,  the students were all from wealthy families and left immediately after.  Only one stayed behind to help clean up.

    Elli placed the last of the weapons on the rack and then started dragging the training dummies back into the corner.  Her clear blue eyes stealing glances at Instructor Milamber who was writing in his account log.  She finished her task and then replaced the used towels with new ones from the wooden box placed next to the wall.

    A pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist from behind, surprising her.

    "You did really well today. That idiot Mikael looked like he wanted to cry."  Milamber hands pushed under her shirt, and spread out against her stomach, enjoying the feel of rippling muscles beneath her smooth skin.

    "Someone might come in!"  Elli looked at the closed door.  If her parents suspected that her weapons instructor had become her first lover, they would have this place torched to the ground.

    "Relax.  I locked it."  Milamber turned her around, his eyes staring hungrily. Never did he imagine he'd find such a beautiful peach in Jenzi.

    Afterward, they lay on the hard floor together.  Two lovers, their limbs entwined and glistening with sweat.

    "When the summer is over, I want to come with you."  Elli kissed the side of his neck, her trimmed nails lightly caressing his bare chest.

    Milamber nodded and squeezed her perfect breast in his hand, the soft suppleness of it reignited his passion. "We'll travel together, you can assist me while continuing to learn the sword."

    And so they continued, through the long weeks of the Jenzi summer until the first day of autumn approached.

    "I love you mom."  Elli waited patiently while her mom brushed her hair and tied it with a red ribbon.

    Cela smiled.  "I know Elli, that's the third time you said it today."

    "Can't say it too much, right?"  Elli returned her mother's smile.

    Cela nodded in agreement.  Her daughter was acting so odd lately, much more attentive to her parents and relatives.  Perhaps, she was maturing.  "I love it when you smile, Elli."

    The young woman didn't reply, she understood that she was beautiful.  Her radiance was reflected in the glances of the men and women who looked at her.  Milamber was different, he saw her intelligence, and humor.  He saw how hard she worked at becoming better, he loved her.

    "I had a great summer Mom.  Thank you for letting me take sword lessons."

    Her mom waved off the thanks.  "No more talk of swords, Eli.  Your father is settling up with that fellow as we speak."

    Elli stared at her mom's back as she walked out the door.  Immediately she rushed to her closet and pulled out the bag she prepared.  She peeked out the doorway before running down the hall.

    At the backdoor, she skidded to a stop and eased it open, pausing when a wet nose pushed against her.  "Get back Chiba, you can't come."

    Without glancing back, she sprinted across the backyard and into the orchard.  A few minutes later, she stepped onto the path, her chest heaving while she gasped for air.  "Thank goodness!"  She spotted him walking toward town, waving with her free hand, she waited for him.

    "Elli."  Milamber's dark eyes seemed surprised to see her.

    "I'm ready!"  Elli hugged him tightly.  "I've been packed for days."

    Milamber shook his head slightly.  "It isn't going to work Elli.  I barely make enough to feed myself."

    "That's fine!  I have some credits."  Elli stepped away and hefted her pack over one shoulder.  "Not much, but if we take it slow it will last a while."

    Milamber nodded in agreement.  "We should be fine then, how much did your bring?"

    Elli's face lit up in a radiant smile.  "Three thousand credits."  She reached into the side pouch on her bag and handed it to him.

    Milamber took the credits and placed them in his bag.  "I was worried that I didn't have enough to make it to Safarza.  This will really help."

    "Safarza? I thought we were going to Broyan?"

    Milamber shook his head.  "Listen... This was the best summer, I just can't afford to be tied down."

    "W-What?"  Elli felt her heart pound against the inside of her ribs, her stomach twisting at his words.  "That's not funny."

    "Don't make this hard, Elli."  Milamber stepped away from her.  "Next time I'm in Jenzi I'll pay you back."

    "Pay me back?"  Elli stared blankly at him.  "I love you.  Why are you..."

    "Enough, Elli."  Milamber glanced down the trail toward the house, all he needed was the old man to find him.  "Your silly notions of love and romance are pathetic.  Just call it what it was, a really good f*ck."

    Elli dropped her pack on the ground, her knees shaking to the point where she couldn't stand.  "This is a joke, a terrible joke."

    Milamber spared her one last glance and then stepped around her.  He stopped a few seconds later at the sound of a blade being pulled from her scabbard.

    "Y-You bastard!"  Tears were streaming down her face, her blade gripped tightly in one hand as she approached him.  "FINE! You don't have to love me, but I won't let you rob me."

    Milamber pulled his own sword and dropped his bag.  "Put the sword down.  You can't possibly beat me."

    Elli flashed forward and attacked with a slash across the face, he pushed the blade aside with his own and then buried his fist in her stomach.  The young woman folded in half, gasping for air.

    "Stupid."  Milamber shook his head and kicked her in the side.  He was about to do it again when a deep rumbling growl caused him to freeze. An old gray wolfhound stared at him, its hackles were raised and teeth were bared. It moved slowly until it was in front Elli.

    "No, Chiba.  Go home."  Elli spoke quietly, gasping for breathe between sobs.

    The swordsman moved forward, slashing at the old animal, laughing when its blood splashed onto the dirt.  He finished it off with a single thrust.

    "CHIBA!" Elli crawled toward the dog, pulling it onto her lap.  "Why?"

    Milamber didn't bother to answer, he picked up this gear and walked away.

    Behind him the girl sobbed quietly, her hands trying to stem the flow of blood, even though the animal was already dead. She looked up at the fleeing figure, tears blurred his form.  "You didn't have to do that.  You didn't have to."


    A breach opened in the suite just after midnight, Nix stepped through a moment later.  "Chiba? Still awake?"

    He noticed her door was open, so he peeked his head in.  The smell of strong liquor accosted his nostrils.  He tried not to laugh at the figure sleeping curled up on the floor.  "The hell Chiba."

    He pried loose the bottle from her hands and sat it on the nightstand. "What are you thinking?  That's straight-up moonshine."

    A cackling laugh sounded from the floor.  "Nix...  My lubley prendis returns."

    "Let's get you up."  Nix bent down and picked her up easily, surprised at how light she felt.  Immediately she hugged his neck and kissed the side of his face, covering it will drool.

    She laughed against the side of his face. "Heh... my faithful dog."

    Nix chuckled while he carried her to the bed.  He set her down gently and pulled the blanket over her.  "You're the one who's slobbering."

    "Sorreee."  Chiba laughed into her pillow.  "Night lubley Prendis."

    "Prendis?" Nix used his sleeve to wipe her drool off his face.  "Night, Chiba."
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