The Sword Saint


#1

Doma, Esper - 52 WR

For three years, Doma was truly free.

No one, least of all their young king, quite believed it. When the flags of revolution waved on the last day of the forty-ninth year since the Ruin, all of Doma expected a great battle. The Esper Union wouldn’t let its conquest go easily, they said. They expected to fight, to bleed, and to die. Even with the many soldiers that Doma mustered, the not small portion of the Esperian United Soldiery’s armaments they claimed, they expected a long war. They prepared for it.

That war never came. The same bureaucrats that marginalized their kingdom within the Union proved incapable of preserving it. Still, none could quite believe it, and more than a few cursed it. They said the Nikeahans mocked them. They said that the Web of Worlds did not truly believe they were free. The EU refused to acknowledge their rebellion, but refused to do anything about it.

They called it an insult. Gyazo Hinder called it a miracle.

He had fought for Doma since the Leviathan War. He called himself an Esperian before, to save his homeland from the ravages of Hannibal and Travin alike. He wore the same olive uniform as the men he planned to kill. But, as he sat in his garden and polished the steel of his katana, he thought that tranquility and sharp blade spoke to the truth of his heart. He was a Doman, and he did not wish to see more Domans shed their blood.

It was a miracle, because they didn’t.

Gyazo knew that miracle couldn’t last forever. He heard it ending when his son’s footsteps echoed down the wooden planks of his deck.

Tendo Hinder looked much like his father. It was a deliberate choice, meant to echo Doma’s famed Sword Saint and greatest general. His black hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail in the same style, but it lacked the grey that peppered Gyazo’s. His eyes were an excitable green, instead of his father’s cool blue. He didn’t have the hard lines or the scar up his left cheek, either. He stopped, with all the excitement of a twenty year-old, and nodded respectfully.

“Father.”

“What did the king say?” Gyazo asked, though he already knew the answer.

“He wishes to offer an alliance to Eblan,” he says. “Their king has much in common with us. He said he hopes a royal marriage could come from this.”

“Ah, I see that his majesty’s head continues to guide him. If only he would use the one that holds his mind. We have only the king and his toddler of a brother.” Gyazo sighed. “Perhaps they can spare us a princess?” He rolled his eyes. “Or, maybe they’ll make a new one.”

“Father,” Tendo sighed.

“I trained his majesty in nearly everything. I’m allowed a few crass jokes.”

“I suppose.”

They both fell quiet, for they both knew this went beyond a joke and a royal marriage. The king had wanted for a trial ever since the Nikeahans denied him one. Gyazo saw the fire in his eyes for himself; he knew that he stoked the fire. He knew, and had always known, that his pupil would seek to prove himself somewhere else. Gyazo tried to temper him, to tell him that the war against the Esper Union would forge him into a great man. He never received his tempering fires. This, Gyazo knew, was his mistake.

He stood up, with a surprising grace. Even at nearly fifty years, Gyazo maintained his balance and his strength. He looked at his son, long and hard, as the wind whipped through his gardens and stirred the leaves there.

“Eblan will be at war before the month is out,” he said. “Their king would dance with Travin. I know how that dance ends.”

“Father,” Tendo said. He could hear the strain in his son’s voice. The anger that Gyazo grappled with at a young man; the anger he mastered only after Tendo’s mother passed. His son knew better than to direct it at him. “You built this nation. You built the New Free Army. You built our king. Everything we have, it’s because of the courage you gave us. You told us–”

“I told you,” Gyazo said gravely, “that you would never be free until you fought. You would never have pride until you claimed it. That Doma would never have her heart until she stood firm against her enemies.”

“Yes,” Tendo said. “And we haven’t forgotten that we were the first to fall against the Scandians.”

Gyazo looked down at that. Those, he knew, were dark days. He lived them – and he knew that the crimes that the Scandians inflicted on their people cried for redress. He knew that the Domans’ rage at them was as valid as their rage against the Nikeahans. It was a rage he felt, but he learned to put his rage to the side, until it needed to be useful.

Tendo saw his father’s quiet hesitation and mistook it. “Then, you won’t fight, father?”

Gyazo looked up, danger flashing in his ice blue eyes. “No,” he said. “I will never turn my back on Doma. Or on our king. I promised him my sword for all of his wars. If he would stand with our brothers in Eblan, then he will have my sword and my soul.”

It was his son’s turn to hesitate. “Father, then–”

“Tell Azulo…” Gyazo closed his eyes. He prepared them for this war. Honor demanded that he see his pupils through it. “…tell his majesty that the Sword Saint stands ready.”