"Just us and the sky, then," Jean said grumpily She made Kyioshi sit down and redid his bandages again. The wounds were starting to heal, although Jean told Kyioshi he'd have scars for the rest of his life.
Ceri was in the second group to bathe in the stream. He didn't talk, but stared out at the fields and frowned. War was going to start - and yet there was some unfinished business he had to complete.
The first, a journey. The second, an apology. Why? he asked the trickle of water. For what? He forced himself to recall, unleashing long-supressed memories.
Two of them were in an alley. Ceri and Sensei's daughter, Tsae. Both were accomplished Judokas and could defend themselves. Unfortunately the street kids they were up against had knives and were on a narcotic high.
It hadn't been on purpose, Ceri wanted to scream later - they were playing with a metal training ball, keeping it in the air by continuously kicking or hitting it. And then Ceri had to send it flying into the shadows of an alley.
There was a loud thunk.
From the darkness emerged a bunch of swaying, knife wielding kids. One was holding the ball and rubbing his head. They all looked extremely ticked off.
"You're an our territory."The leader holding the ball, said simply. His words were slurred.
There was no time to think. A mania rippled through the group, and the boys leapt at them, knives and teeth glinting.
Ceri found himself moving, kicking, punching; breaking arms and necks alike. It was atemi-waza, forbidden in competition, and he got carried away.
He saw the leader retreating into the alley, neck red from a stray kick. Still holding the ball, Ceri thought. Emotions overcame his clear thinking.
With a roar Ceri broke past the main group, flying after the leader. The leader paused and turned, and Ceri pulled a fist back and swung. It hit bone and skin and flesh.
The leader stumbled backwards - blood flowing from is broken nose - and pathetically collapse into a heap.
He turned, too late. Tsae was surrounded and overwhelmed by the kids. With a scream she fell, and then their knives went up and shined in the sunlight, and plunged down.
Blood blossomed like a dark rose, thorns no one could see pressing deep into Ceri heart.
Ceri left the stream, thinking hard. He owed Sensei an aplogy, at least. They never talked after that incident, and Tsae's death taught Ceri to never get put himself in such situations ever again.
No love. If he hadn't been so close to Tsae, he would not have hurt so much. Sensei would have forgiven him - but he ahd failed to protect her, and that was an ultimate sin.
So he buried himself in school and forced himself to seem normal; to be sarcastic and fun and to be the boy he was. No love.
Alec's blog extract
If Freeport falls before we reach it, we'd be in big trouble. I'd say we're only half a day away from the city, and if the Black Moon soldiers launch the attack tonight we'd hear it. It wouldn't be nice falling asleep knowing your Mecca is being ripped apart.
Jason's blog extract
We're being tracked. I smell it. But we've started the war, didn't we? It might serve us good, but you don't usually think that, especially when assasins are looking for you.