The inn, Walter’s, was back to normal now, with the night outside making the candles in the window and the fireplace rosy and homelike against the dark. Chiro sat quietly at a table by the fire, a cooling cup of tea next to her elbow and her tail draped over her shoulder.
Around her lay tools for writing: ink, quill, paper, wax for sealing. And yet, she hesitated. Normally Chiro enjoyed writing her letters home. They helped her organize her thoughts, as well as providing a written record of events should something ever happen to her. The problem was the letters that lay before her.
One is on the usual parchment, in a steady, somewhat slanting handwriting- it’s solid and meticulous, in black ink. The other is on more durable, expensive vellum, written by a slighter hand, very graceful and smooth.
Chiro frowns, rereading the first.
…very dangerous if used poorly…
…drift effortlessly between both, achieving true harmony between light and darkness…
…a copy of the meditation techniques I use daily…
…your training in spirit is incomplete…
…I do not doubt he would seek you out and kill you. His thirst to become the strongest is all he has now…
The cheery fire did little to warm the small shiver that went down her spine as Chiro leaned back, unconsciously rubbing her knuckles and smoothing the tip of her tail in a nervous fidget.
“What have I stumbled onto?” she murmured. The entire letter was the most serious she’d ever seen him. “I just wanted to prove Master Syzoth wrong, that I could create my own techniques, and instead… Anatsuken. Is… is this even something I want to continue pursuing?”
She lapsed into silence for a moment, wrestling with her own thoughts.
Then Chiro rose, and took a small statuette of Irori, setting it on the simple worn wooden table. Rummaging in her bag, she found half a stick of incense, and lit it The smell of sandalwood seeped into the air. She placed the incense in the tiny statue’s hands, letting it smolder. While she was no paladin or cleric, she always strived to make his ways her own: keep pursuing her own perfection. But was there “perfection” in this? A move of great power from a style created explicitly for death?
There could be. Styles change. His father mastered it. Harmony- light and darkness. Perfection. And yet… If his father mastered it, and was still killed by this guy… He flat out said in the letter he was no match for his father’s murderer… what chance do I have if whoever this is comes looking for me?
Then she stopped.
What if he came for Agatha? And Lini, and Emi wherever she is, and Charity- oh gods. What if he came for Coira?
Her blood ran cold for a second as Chiro swallowed. She’d fought by her friends in life or death situations, but the feeling that slithered down her spine now, a cold chill, was much different than facing death with her fists raised in defiance.
Even Coira may have problems with him. She gave up so much of herself to bring back Arthur and Ming Chao. She’ll never complain, of course, because she’s Coira, and she has nothing if not her pride, haha. A fond, smitten smile, as her mood perks briefly, thinking of mismatched eyes and long silky hair. And she said herself that it was worth it. But… still. I- I don’t… I don’t know if I can protect her from him…
A complete secret was… Mmmm. Not likely. When had she used it before? Who had seen her use it? Chiro could not remember. It was new, she hadn’t used it often, but she HAD used it… Was it even safe to practice?
“Shit,” she muttered, a very unmonklike word, with a brief expression of apology to the statue.
How could she pursue her own perfection in this? Should she? Was this like the Grand Master’s Box, a secret that she should leave unopened? And yet… the thought of stopping just because of this man, his relationship to the people she loved aside, his strength aside, even his murderous intent aside, that galled her. Had she ever let anyone stop her? Just because it might be dangerous? Be honest, Chiro. No might about it. It’s dangerous. But then, my life is dedicated to a dangerous art. Bumps and bruises and broken bones, wandering Golarion to perfect myself and my techniques…
I dunno. I feel like this is something I should pursue, but the cost…
Finally, she put her quill to ink and began to write.
Dear Master Gouken and Grand Master Shao (since this is probably more efficient anyways than you trading letters),
I apologize for not elaborating on our adventures in the pocket dimension earlier; I was short on paper and time both, but I can give a better explanation now, if you like- I attached it separately, and added a few details. There was kind of a lot going on!
We are currently en route to do help a friend in the Pathfinder Society regarding a temple of Sarenrae in Agatha’s homeland of Andoran, way up in the mountains there. There’s a veritable seas of grass, almost taller than me, and big giant forests, trunks green with moss and age. It’s a nice place though, mostly! We met up with Melda, who, well, she kinda got in trouble and we bailed her out (again). The good news is she makes excellent potions for our adventures, and that makes it an even trade, though having her aboard the ship will be… interesting. Gnomes and hobgoblins don’t get on well, I guess, and Melda has had the usual hobgoblin upbringing…. and absolutely NO sense of tact at ALL. Part of me finds her kind of refreshing, and the rest of me is kinda glad that Coira is helping keep an eye on her.
Just in case.
That is the same Coira who I mentioned in the pocket dimension, by the way! She’s our friend and [large scratch out] a very dear one to me, personally. The rest of the group has trouble trusting her, which is not entirely undeserved, but… she’s trying to be better, she really is, and I wish they’d stop being so suspicious all the time. Coira hasn’t had many friends, or good examples, or general positive influences in her life, like at all. I hope to be one- I want to help her find her own way in this new world. Kinda hard though when Agatha is always giving her a little side eye. But Coira has done a lot to help us. I hope the rest of the group eases up. The passage to our world was costly for her, personally.
By the way, before we left Absolom, I went and took a trip to the ruin there, the one like the place by the Temple. It’s been trashed a lot over the years, and I didn’t find anything new, but I did notice that the stone the place was built of was the same stone as the one by the temple. Not only that, but it is NOT any stone native to Absolom OR the Pillars of the Sun, and I know because I took a chunk to a dwarven geologist to identify it. He identified it as something called direstone, and said it’s not from this planet. It’s from outer space- a piece of a fallen star. Heavy as granite but much, muuuuuch harder. Except the whole temple is built of it? Both of them, I guess? This probably isn’t anything new, but I wanted to add it just in case it was.
Do either of you know where some really really REALLY old forests would be? I need a living steel tree and they’re only found there and the Underdark, and I am NOT going to Underdark. (Ming Chao wants to spar with this ogre in Absolom, but the ogre broke his weapon -that’s the tree- and won’t fight anyone till it gets fixed. And Ming Chao won’t spar me until he spars the ogre.)
Master Gouken: I will take your advice, and warnings, to heart. I confess to being torn on how, or even if, to proceed; I’m hoping some meditation later will help me find my focus. Thank you very much. I will keep you informed of my progress, or lack thereof.
Grand Master Shao: Pity about the coconuts! They’re my new favorite food. Oh well. Have the Pathfinders made any more progress on the other Temple? I continue to work on the Abundant Step technique, slowly but steadily.
We leave tomorrow for the mountains; we’re hoofing it there, because we don’t want to risk the ship. I hope this letter finds you both safe and well!
She paused, looking it over, and nodded a little with a sigh. It would have to do for now.
Time to get some meditation in before bed.
Sealing it, with the more detailed explanation inside, she headed for the door, and the mailing office.