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From Kou, With Love [Plot/FanaCorps Training]

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Ayero

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Ayero fiddled with the ink quill between her fingers, staring down at the blank parchment with a look of disdain. It was as if it was the paper’s fault that she couldn’t figure out what to write, or so one would assume from the way she was glaring at it. With a sigh of frustration, the Fanalis woman dropped the pen unceremoniously into the ink well and sat back in her chair, arms folded across her chest. Eyelids fluttered closed as her chest rose and fell with controlled, consciously willing herself to calm down.

It’s just a letter. Ayero absently tugged at the sleeve of her Kou-styled top, fiddling with the loose material where it flared out at the end. Light from the window spilled onto the floor, a few stray beams catching her crimson hair and illuminating her locks. Why am I having such a hard time?

Pushing herself back from the desk, Ayero stood and drifted over to the window. The setting sun complimented the natural pastel tones of the sky, making it a picturesque scene of serenity and calm. Unfortunately, Ayero’s Fanalis temper began to leak into her normally collected façade, preventing her from taking in the beauty around her. With a grunt of irritation, the young warrior yanked the curtains closed and walked back to the desk, her steps heavy and deliberate.

With a bit of a dramatic sigh Ayero flopped down into the chair before tilting it back with her weight, resting her legs on the desk with her arms once again crossed over her chest. It had only been a week since she and Azix had returned from their adventure in Eligos, and every night since then she had tried to write letters back home. But the Fanalis knew that she wasn’t running into traditional writer’s block. She had so many things to say, but had never really had the opportunity—or the need—to communicate them on paper.

She wasn’t entirely illiterate. Ayero had spent the first twelve years of her life living in a tiny, isolated mountain village. There was no need for books or writing instruments—words were for mouth, not paper and parchment. While she suspected that her father was literate, it didn’t have much use in rough mountain life. On her travels she had been taught the basics of reading and writing by a few more educated members of the caravan she had lived with for a few years, but the Fanalis hardly practiced her literacy skills. Beyond reading signs and maps, what need did she have for them? And so they remained rudimentary.

But sometime after the war, Ayero had begun to realize the importance of a proper education. Certain paths were unlocked—safer, more comfortable ways of life—when one was educated. She had made the decision to send Vin to school with this in mind, not wanting the boy to be limited in his choices as she had been. If he wanted to become a swordsman or join the military like her, then he would be able to—but only after he had completed his studies.

Maybe I should ask someone to write them for me. Ayero entertained the thought for a few moments, mentally sifting through the faces she had met in Kou. I doubt Yusuf can write better than I can. And Hojo… While she trusted the man to a degree and enjoyed sharing a cup of tea and a conversation with him, she wasn’t exactly comfortable revealing what she believed to be one of her more intimate weaknesses to him.

Glancing over at the pile of book and scrolls the Lieutenant had loaned her, Ayero almost snorted. She had been studying military strategy alongside him, and the man had generously given her some documents and guides to read. She didn’t have the heart to tactfully explain that they were all likely above her reading level, but accepted them graciously. They had since been collecting dust on the corner of her desk, and Ayero insisted she learned better from listening and seeing rather than reading.

Chewing at her lower lip, the young woman tilted her head back in thought. No, she couldn’t ask Hojo. Perhaps she should seek out Ariella or Azix—she considered the two to be among her closest friends, and well-educated to boot. Though she would be a little embarrassed in asking for help, she knew that she could trust them.

Taking in a breath, Ayero stood from her seat and began to roll up the parchment, her heart aching at the thought of putting off the letters to Vin and Octavius yet another day. Maybe some tea before bed would help…

[781/1000]


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Ayero

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When she had arrived in Kou, Ayero did not expect herself to fall for the people and culture. Her sense of community had grown over the years—at first it was confined to her family, then to the larger caravan. Before settling in Reim, she did not believe it was possible to have strong feelings of nationalism toward such a vast, varying country. After the war had ended and she found her place in the Fanalis Corps, Ayero discovered her own feelings of protectiveness and love for the people of Reim. The country was not perfect—not that she believed it to be from the start—but it was a place to call home.

Ayero didn’t feel the same way about Kou, but she did deeply admire the eastern country. Its culture and customs were so different from Reim, yet the people were alike in many ways. They were welcoming and industrious, and wanted the same thing that people across the world seemed to want—a safe place to live and a way to earn their keep. In this way, the people of Kou were very similar to the people of Reim and those she had met elsewhere. Admittedly all she could picture were demons with ill intentions before seeing Kou for herself. She knew deep down beforehand that they weren’t like that, but it really helped to see them with her own eyes.

And there were differences. People and customs in Reim were more brash, bold and showy. Kou, on the other hand was more delicate, refined and graceful in their own way. It had taken her time to become accustomed on how to act appropriately, but she was determined to make a good impression and her teachers were patient.

In her own thought, Ayero had decided to adopt a Kou style of dress, even if only for a short time. While her armor was reliable, she couldn’t stop herself from glancing at the pretty cloth every time she strolled through the market. While she admired the beautiful fabric that many Kou women seemed to wrap themselves in, the Fanalis wasn’t a fan of it as a day-to-day style on herself. It looked far too difficult to walk around in, never mind fighting.

And so, after a few trips to the tailor Ayero had obtained an outfit that she was happy with—showy yet breathable, influenced with Kou designs and cuts.


[1185/1000]


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Ayero

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A low hum thrummed in Ayero’s throat as she poured over the map, her cleavage exposed to the man standing on the other side of the table. Her eyes flickered upward and she almost grunted when she noticed that Hojo’s own face was tilted toward, thumb and forefinger cupping his chin as he stared at the small stone markers scattered across the man. The pair had been going over an exercise in strategy, playing a game of sorts with markers to denote their “military units”, moving them across the map in hopes of capturing the most territory. Hojo had been formally educated as an officer, and was thus more experienced in the theory of strategy—studying various forms of strategy from both his country and other’s. While Ayero was uneducated, she had learned to be cunning in battle as it was so often her means of survival. The gears in the Fanalis’ mind were turning rapidly, planning her moves ahead of time, employing strategy she’d learned from both the military and the school of hard knocks.

”May I see it again?” Hojo’s soft voice caught Ayero off guard, and she looked up suddenly to see the young man staring at her face. Ayero started back for a few moments, unsure of what he was asking before the realization dawned in her eyes. Without so much as an affirming nod, she gingerly removed the necklace from around her neck, the eagle charm housing Eligos hanging from a thin silver chain. She handed the trinket over to Hojo, watching him as he handled her metal vessel carefully.

The Kou man brushed his fingers across the magic circle gently, his eyes filled with thought. A few silent moments passed before he handed it back over to Ayero, a small smile on his face. ”The power of a King must be incredible. Is it true that you now wield the same power as Emperor Zu?”

Ayero returned the necklace to its rightful place, the eagle pendant sliding between her breasts. ”I suppose.” She grunted, tilting her head down towards the map once more. Reaching out, she moved several of the stone pieces before gesturing to her opponent. ”Your move.”

The Fanalis warrior straightened and crossed her arms under her breasts as Hojo’s gaze gracefully swept downwards, his brows creasing slightly as he assessed the map. ”Have you heard that another dungeon has appeared?” He glanced up to read Ayero’s face, her expression telling him that she had not heard the news so he continued. ”Somewhere in the plains.” His slender fingers reached out to touch a stone marker, slowly moving it across the map. ”They’re saying that people have already begun to flock to it.” Another few markers were moved into odd positions. Satisfied, Hojo stood tall and faced Ayero once more. ”Your move, Colonel.”

Ayero’s eyes lingered on Hojo’s face for a moment before returning her visual attention to the map. ”Are you thinking of challenging it?”

”Are you?”

The quick response was enough for Ayero to lift her head, brow cocked. She locked eyes with Hojo for a moment before returning her gaze back to the task at hand. ”I suppose not. It’s only been a short while since Eligos.” She snorted absently while trying to decipher who was falling into whose trap.

”You’ve recovered quite nicely from your adventure in Eligos, though.” Hojo insisted. ”After sleeping for nearly an entire day you seemed to bounce right back!”

Ayero’s head shot up and she glared at the man for a moment before reigning herself in. She hadn’t expected to be teased, but Hojo seemed amused and laughed softly. He flashed her an apologetic smile and she simply grunted in response. ”It would be interesting to see what it’s like inside.” While the harsh and unwelcoming terrain of Eligos was not something she wanted to experience again, she had learned from Azix that dungeons varied in their theme. And while she was not against the prospect of obtaining another Djinn—she didn’t know if it was even possible—she first wanted to learn how to wield Eligos’ power properly.

The Djinn’s voice rang in her head as she moved her stone markers. She recalled the fight in the Necropolis, how she had chosen to spare Merrze’s life, and how poor of a decision it was. She wanted to blame it on the pressure of the situation, but such decision often had to be made under the very same pressure. Finished with her move, all Ayero had to do was glance up at Hojo for the man to take the cue and start moving his pieces.

With decisive movements, the lieutenant had successfully captured the majority of Ayero’s pieces and her land. The Fanalis had to fight back an irritated look, but the surprise showed on her face. Hojo offered her a half smile as he twirled one of the captured pawns between his fingers. ”Can I give you some advice?” He offered, continuing when Ayero nodded shortly after. ”You were doing fine until your last couple of moves. But I’ve noticed that you don’t take risks, which makes you easy to predict.”

Ayero blinked, then straightened her shoulders as she stared into the space over Hojo’s shoulder. After a few moments, she shook her head and slammed both hands down onto the map. ”Again.”

[2076/1000]

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