And... we're back! Took long enough, didn't it?
The man stepped off the Azure Rider, looking around at the Juriss port. He stopped, one foot standing on the shipâ€™s plank and the other on the dock, then turned to the bosun. â€œIs thatâ€¦?â€
â€œEssence cannon.â€ The bosun grinned widely, gesturing to where the eight-foot tall machine was affixed. A woman veiled from head to toe was kneeling beside it, quietly working, and other labourers swarmed over and around it, following instructions that did not carry over the sounds of the harbour. â€œWe got it out of an old ruin about five weeks back. Madam Jasmineâ€™s been fixing it up ever since and getting a power line running.â€
â€œI canâ€™t imagine that you need it. That thing looks like it could punch a hole though a ship at hundreds of yards.â€
â€œLintha.â€ Spitting over the side into the water, the bosun shook his head. â€œTheyâ€™ve attacked the Rider four times in the last three months. Werenâ€™t for the captain, weâ€™d not be here now.â€
â€œHm.â€ The man nodded shortly, turning to consider the essence cannon. â€œA shame I didnâ€™t get to meet him, then.â€
â€œOh, he always keeps to his cabin. Nothing personal. Youâ€™ll most likely see him about town, now heâ€™s here.â€ Grinning, the bosun turned back towards the deck, yelling at a pair of sailors who were working at tying off the sails, and leaving the man to consider the harbour before him. After a moment, he walked over to the cannon, bowing to the veiled woman.
â€œExcuse me, I wasâ€¦â€
â€œUp the hill, turn left at Cobblerâ€™s Lane. Itâ€™s about five minutes to the dojo.â€ Without so much as glancing at the man, she turned her attention to a pair of wires.
Losing his train of thought, the man paused. â€œSorry, what?â€
â€œYouâ€™re looking for the dojo. Thatâ€™s where it is.â€ The woman reached for a pair of twisted pliers, uncoiling them into a strange flexible shape, and then pried at the wires until they were a seamless whole.
â€œHow could you possibly knowâ€¦â€
â€œYoung Dragon-Blood. Covering red jade armour with his cloak so that no one will see it. Swords belted on back to avoid drawing worry. Badly covered house crest. Why else would you be here? Either you want to learn from Sifu Lodaris, or you want to stop him.â€
The man frowned after a moment, unconsciously shifting his cloak to more fully cover himself. â€œAnd youâ€™re not going to find out which?â€
â€œWhy?â€ The woman paused, turned, and looked at the man. â€œIf you are here to learn, I shouldnâ€™t stop you. If you are here to fight, you must be a match for him, and thus I couldnâ€™t stop you. Either way, I do better fixing this cannon. Now, if youâ€™re done with the stupid questionsâ€¦â€ Deliberately, she turned back to the cannon, and the man sighed.
â€œThank you, Madam Jasmine.â€ Turning, he started up the hill, mulling over her words. â€œWhat a strange woman.â€
The pathway that Jasmine suggested proved to be quiet accurate, and the man soon found himself standing outside the refurbished dojo. From within came the sounds of combat, and a familiar voice barking orders. With a faint smile, the man pushed open the doors and stepped inside.
â€œLeft! Right! Better, better.â€ Cathak Lodaris strode amongst thirty mortal students, mostly residents of the town, his hands behind his back as he considered. Occasionally, he paused to shoot out a leg, knocking someone into a more proper posture. â€œHigh kick!â€ He paused as the door opened, his attention sliding over, and a thoughtful look came over his face. â€œContinue your excercises. I will be one moment.â€
The man stepped forwards and bowed low. â€œSifu.â€
â€œWhy have you come here?â€ Lodarisâ€™s voice was harsh.
â€œI needed to speak with you. About a great many things.â€ The man bowed. â€œSifu, please accept my apologies, but I cannot leave here until I do.â€
After a moment, Lodaris sighed. â€œVery well.â€ He glanced sidelong at his old pupil. â€œDoes Alina know that youâ€™re here?â€
There was a sudden, sharp intake of breath behind him, and he turned. Standing in the doorway of the dojo was Alina, a brace of chakrams hanging loose in one hand, as she beheld the man who had come. â€œCitriosâ€¦â€
Citriosâ€™s reply was dry. â€œI think she does now.â€