13 Brothers by blood

    Inside of a rustic old tavern sat a disheveled old man at his side was an old blade in its sheath. His dull eyes were focused on the cup filled with wine. He'd occasionally take a few sips and then sit quietly.

    Near the edges of the tavern sat a few men in leather armor, and to the edge of their booth were a variety of weapons. Hammers, greatswords, and axes of dubious quality. They would occasionally look over at the old man at the bar.

    On the other side of the bar, the bartender was busy cleaning a bunch of cups and he turned back to the old man.

    "Are you enjoying the drink, sir?" He said with a genial tone, the bartender was an older gentleman. His greying hair and wisened eyes added to his charm.

    "I always enjoy a good whiskey, it just reminds me of home." The old man said with a bit of melancholy in his voice.

    After looking at his reflection in his drink for a moment, the old man looked up at the bartender.

    "What did you say your name was again?" The old man asked intensely.

    "Me? I'm Su Yan. What about you?" The Bartender smiled genuinely with a little deviousness.

    "Lin Jian, but most people just call me Maven." The old man joked earnestly.

    "Where are you originally from? You said you missed home." Su Yan asked as he grabbed a cup and started polishing it clean with a rag.

    "Originally I came from the western peninsula." Maven said with a big grin.

    "Ah, you must know about the Fog City on the bewitching lake." Su Yan said with interest.

    "I do..." Maven said with a wry smile.

    "Oh sorry, I don't mean to pry. I've just always been interested in mysteries like that. My grandfather told me that many powerful warriors disappeared there." Su Yan said curiously.

    "Your grandfather?" Maven said quizzically.

    "You met him, he's the gatekeeper for our town." Su Yan said with a smirk

    In Maven's mind flashed the image of an old man with a scar across his left eye. He was wearing a thick black armor as he guided the group around the city.

    "Oh, you mean him." Maven realized.

    "But yes many people disappeared in that fog, the city that people talk about is a lie. All there is is an unending fog and the screaming of innocents." Maven said with a trembling voice, Su Yan looked down at his cup trying not to make any eye contact.

    "Thank you for that. Anyway, what are you folk up to out here in the wilderness?" Su Yan asked kindly.

    Suddenly Maven came to life and with glee and a dreadful killing intent he spoke.

    "We're hunting a demon." His smile was crooked and he had yellow teeth, but he still smiled fully and wholly.

    "A terrible demon, and we have a new companion to help us. Isn't that right Ji boy?" Maven joked as Ye Yuyan walked into the tavern. His black robes swayed with his every elegant step, and his dark and deep eyes landed on Maven's disheveled figure.

    "Of course sir." Ye Yuyan remarked with a warm smile.

    "Grab a seat, and drink with me." Maven laughed as he turned towards the bartender.

    "Bring us your finest wine!" He said to Su Yan energetically.

    Ye Yuyan sat next to him at the bar, and the bartender slid him a cup. But Ye Yuyan shook his head and pointed over at a bowl like a cup. It looked as though it was carved from the finest jade and instantly drew his attention.

    "Give me that sake cup." He asked Su Yan

    Su Yan looked over and grabbed it showing it to Ye Yuyan, he looked at it again a little confused.

    "This? You mean this fingerbowl?" Su Yan said with a quizzical tone.

    "Ah, I forgot about you westerners." Ye Yuyan laughed as Su Yan put down a wine bottle, a cup, and the sake cup. He started to pour the wine into each cup before sealing the cork. Maven reached out and took a sip of the wine.

    "How do you like it?" Su Yan asked earnestly

    "Very sweet like a bee's nectar. What is it?" Maven kindly remarked and asked.

    "It's our finest Yellow Flower Wine, brewed by my father." Su Yan smiled and conversed with Maven. Ye Yuyan meanwhile watched them as he took a sip from the sake cup.

    "Why are you looking at that cup so longingly Ji boy?" Maven asked intently

    "In my homeland, we would drink from this in ceremonies." Ye Yuyan couldn't help but reminisce as he looked at the cup.

    "What kind of ceremonies?" Su Yan asked curiously.

    "Rights of passage for a boy, marriage, honoring the ancestors, and journeying into the world. All sorts of times, but it has an everlasting charm." Ye Yuyan said with a serene smile.

    "How quaint." Su Yan couldn't help but say.

    "Indeed it is, it has been a long time since I drank like this." Ye Yuyan wryly smiled

    "How long?" Su Yan wondered.

    "Quite long, a decade or so." Ye Yuyan replied

    "But you're so young." Su Yan questioned.

    "Looks aren't all, kiddo. What did you drink for?" Maven said to Su Yan before turning to Ye Yuyan immediately after.

    "Brotherhood! I drank with my brother, and we made a blood pact." Ye Yuyan

    "Your brother?" Su Yan interrupted

    "Yes, the man I trusted the most!"

    "What happened?!?" Su Yan asked with concern

    "He died due to a demon ritual" Ye Yuyan hatred and fire burning in his eye.

    "I see..." Su Yan as his voice trailed off.

    "Ji Shu, do you know how to use a sword?" Maven asked curiously

    "I know a little." Ye Yuyan said humbly.

    "How about we have a Dao debate, that is what you easterners call truth?" Maven laughed

    "I'm surprised you're familiar with the Dao, Knighted sir. Of course, I'd love to discuss with you." Ye Yuyan said with surprise.

    "I understand only a shallow bit, I hope you'll go easy on me." Maven smiled deviously.

    "In our lands, we call it school of truth and thought, but you call it Dao of heaven and earth. I've always wondered is Heaven truth and the Earth sentiment?" Maven asked making Ye Yuyan's eyes turn into to attentive slits.

    "My sir you are truly experienced, to be able to see such a pattern between the two systems." Ye Yuyan sighed as his mind unravelled Maven's words.

    "Sadly I couldn't answer such a question, but the Dao is more than a school. It is all things as one, and the world itself is far more than a school." Ye Yuyan said consolingly.

    "I see....then what about..." Maven went off discussing the principles of the sword as well as the principles behind the sword as a school and a Dao.

    Occasionally Maven would grab his sword and practice a motion with his furthered insights, and then he would carve a stance into the wood of the bar amazing both Su Yan and Ye Yuyan with the efficiency and elegance of his sword stances.

    Even Su Yan would have interesting perspectives to add, he himself cultivated the sword like his grandfather and Maven. After a few more hours of discussion, Maven started laughing out loud.

    "You're both really something. You've helped me make up my mind, you're exactly the type of men I want to be brothers with." Maven laughed as he took a big gulp of his wine.

    "No joke about that." Su Yan said with a smile to Ye Yuyan

    "Thank you, both. You're both the type of brothers I want." Ye Yuyan said with seriousness.

    "Then let's do it, you said we can use these cups to become blood brothers right?" Su Yan said enthused he grabbed a few more fingerbowls and poured some more yellow wine.

    "Okay well for this you need some blood." Ye Yuyan said with a childish smile, he took out a little dagger and showed them.

    "The ritual is easy, watch." Ye Yuyan cut his pointer finger down an inch, then put pressure on the finger with his thumb. A drop of blood congealed on the edge of his nail and dripped into the drink dying it red. He looked at the blood spread across the drink and then held it up.

    "Then you do the same." Su Yan grabbed a knife from the bar and cut his finger, dripping the blood into his drink. Maven followed his example and dyed his wine with his blood.

    "Now follow me." Ye Yuyan said as he brought his cup to Su Yan's mouth, and Su Yan put his drink to Ye Yuyan mouth. Ye Yuyan crossed his arm around Su Yan and Su Yan followed, they each put their drinks on their lips and took a sip.

    They both unwrapped their hands and then repeated the same with Su Yan and Maven, then Maven and Ye Yuyan. Maven and Ye Yuyan shared and unwrapped their hands.

    "Now we're all brothers by our swords and blood." Maven said with a childish grin.

    "Brothers by blood." Ye Yuyan mumbled lightly to himself

    "And the sword." Su Yan hearing Ye Yuyan's mumble, remarked immediately.

    "How wonderful." Ye Yuyan laughed warmly with his eyes squinting ever so slightly.
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