Private Past In Flames [Syfu]

Discussion in 'The Galaxy - 4 ABY' started by Arden Marr, Nov 4, 2018.

  1. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    No music. No people. No noise.

    There was nothing to compete with the voices in her head, or the visions that ran on repeat every time she closed her eyes. Arden was alone in every sense of the word - save for the strange man across the bar, dutifully polishing his drinking glasses - and it was awful.

    Forearms resting on the bar, the Inquisitor's posture was hunched, head bowed; as if the rapidly melting ice in her drink might reveal the future somehow, bringing far-flung truths to light. But there was no clarity to be found, no hope, no light. Only her reflection, distorted in the curve of the glass, further shadowed by the darkness that enveloped her. There was nothing to do but sit and drink and think and wait. Eventually, the misery would pass.

    (Or would it? Arden wasn't so sure.)

    Fingers wrapping around the tumbler, she raised it to her lips and closed her eyes - first mistake - coaxing the last dregs of liquor down her throat. The images were instant: the golden glow of her saber, bright as any star, disappearing briefly - lost in the mess of coat and robe and clothes that enveloped him - only to emerge, no longer eclipsed, victorious. The blow had been fatal, but death claimed him slowly, bifurcated but still breathing, albeit barely.

    But it wasn't the sensation of the kill that tormented her, or the memory of his passing as he simply disappeared, no longer a gentle thrumming in the infinite web of the Force. It was the smell of his skin as he burned, the rank bouquet of singed hair and flesh and synthetic fibers mixed with the heady aroma of blazing ozone. It overwhelmed her as she drank, filling her mouth with memory. Better than the trash they served on Mos Espa, anyway.

    With nothing left to dull her mind, Arden raised her head, made a vague gesture toward the barkeep, and watched as he lazily retrieved her glass, refilled her drink, and tallied her ever-growing tab. The whole place was empty: it was mid-morning (maybe? time seemed so ephemeral when whiskey was involved) and somewhere she registered it was both very hot and too early to be drinking heavily. But the cantina seemed to fit the stereotypical description of a miserable little hole in the wall with it's limited seating, broken everything, chipped cups and negligent staff. It was exactly the kind of place one went to to drown one's sorrows, and Arden certainly had the motivation - and the credits - to do just that.
     
  2. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Tattooine was a harsh world, and Mos Espa an even harsher microcosm and reflection. One shouldn’t stare too deeply into the Abyss, lest one finds it staring back at them. It was a fitting metaphor for Syfu’s time on Tattooine in this New Age of the Republic. It was all he could do to keep out of the brewing sandstorm on the streets. On his way back to the starport to book passage to the next adventure—wherever the Force decided to take him, the dusty grit blasted his tattered robes with increasing intensity. Syfu forced himself down the avenue, until he could no longer see from his good eye. The first threshold that was gracious enough to be there for the ragged Jedi Knight to duck under happened to be a Cantina.


    Empty, save for a single soul. A familiar presence, a presence he hadn’t felt since.... But it was largely unfamiliar. Divergent from the familiar, darker. Twisted. Tortured, and in the process of growing darker still from the demon drink before her. No, he knew all too well the grisly scene before him, the path was a familiar one. All creatures who experienced life suffered from it, some were more sensitive to it than others. And Syfu had always been one to wear his emotions on his sleeve for all to bear witness.


    The sandstorm raging beyond the Cantina walls was little more than a metaphor itself, the chaos swirling around outside, amid the terrors swirling within the mind of the young Jedi---she would always be a Jedi to Syfu, no matter how far she had fallen down the path. It was always seven times down, eight times up. Without the code, there was nothing. When left to their own devices, young Jedi often fell victim to the demons of experience. It was something that moved the Veteran Jedi General—hero of the Clone Wars—pah. It was something that Sticks and he had said back then. The bonds of brotherhood, the core tenant—‘Call upon me brother, when it is dark and the demons come. Call on me, and we will fight them together.’


    He couldn’t leave a man behind, and it seemed Destiny itself had it in mind for Syfu to be here in this place, at this time. His presence in the Force muted, Syfu cautiously approached the bar, still shaking sand from his hair, beard and robes. “I’ll have a hot tea, with milk,” all he said to the barkeep. “And a bottle of rum.” Syfu maintained a respectful distance from the drunken Arden. His mind drifted back, almost in solipsism, back to that terrible night on Jedha and the last time he had seen Arden Marr. It was a grimly silent then as it was now, with the same putrid stink in her aura that had been in Nyx.


    No, there was nothing but pain here. A world full of things that nobody wanted to deal with.
     
  3. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    It all felt too heavy to bear: the coat over her shoulders, the glass in her hand, the guilt that gnawed on her idle psyche, the knowledge that she had endured one killing, and more would follow. Her bones felt like glass, full of hairline fractures, poised to shatter. Or perhaps she was simply drunk, exhausted and in desperate need of a good night's rest; something few would find on a sandy shithole planet in the middle of nowhere, but worth striving for just the same.

    Pushing the hair from her eyes as yet another two fingers of whiskey disappeared, hot and harsh against the back of her throat, Arden felt him before she heard him, a soft drumming in the Force that resonated even through her blunted senses. Without it, she would've chalked it up to drunken delerium: there was no reason for a familiar face to exist so far from the Core Worlds, and even then, her social circle was laughably small. An acquaintance on Tatooine was certainly no accident, but the Inquisitor struggled to accept the fact that Syfu's appearance could very well be the machinations of Force, or fate itself.

    Swallowing hard, she froze. Even as he passed through her peripheral vision, Arden resisted the urge to turn her head, to watch him as he moved. It had been so long - was it really him? Was he the same, or had he changed? War had a funny way of tearing through a person, leaving them burnt and hollow inside. Had he suffered the same fate?

    A sharp breath accompanied the sound of his voice, and unable to help it, Arden winced. Her body protested, reminded her of her bruises, and shunned any quick, sudden movements. If she thought about reaching for her saber, even momentarily, her wounds were more than enough to bring her back to reality. Barely able to hold herself upright, the Inquisitor was in no shape to fight. (Or think, or feel - anything but staying the course was too much trouble)

    Lips parting as though to speak, Arden hesitated, if only for a moment. "It's a thousand degrees outside. You think a place like this serves tea?" There was a hint of amusement in her tone, behind the sarcasm, buried beneath the slight incredulity. Never one for overwrought displays of feeling, it was the best greeting she could manage, given her current level of inebriation. Swirling the last drops of amber liquid against the edges of her glass, she finally let herself get a good look at him, turning to regard him with bright-but-tired eyes. It was a lengthy appraisal, and whatever she decided of his sudden reappearance, it certainly didn't show on her face.
     
  4. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Squeezing his blinded eye shut at the sound of Arden’s voice, he couldn’t help but fire his own sharp barb. “That’s what the rum is for.” There was nothing in the Code against libation. But Syfu didn’t drink to celebrate. Often. No, he knew the pain emanating from the young Arden. He knew it all too well. She certainly wasn’t going anywhere—but he wouldn’t notice her physical wounds for a while yet.


    Her eyes painted a different picture, bright and full of life. Syfu returned her gaze, if only for a moment with his one good eye, shooting that intense stare permanently etched into his scarred face. It wasn’t stern, or born from displeasure, but the look that advertised every single one of hundreds of battles. The one that exuded quiet, reserved knowing wisdom. The bartender interrupted the moment with the dusty bottle of literally spiced rum, quite dark hitting the bar with a meaty thunk. Syfu placed a few credits on the bar, took the bottle by the neck and approached his sullen compatriot.


    Leaving perhaps one stool between them, Syfu decided to plant himself neatly, quietly and fluidly, uncorking the bottle. To even begin a conversation with Arden, he felt the urge to be drunk. It might have been the Mandalorian in him, or the unpleasantness associated with all of their meetings. But times were different now, there was a New Republic and the Jedi Knights had returned in earnest. He took a measured swig from the bottle, deciding it was indeed up to par, and swallowed. Another followed. “It is indeed good to learn you yet live,” about all he could muster up for polite conversation. It was true, of course, Syfu was pleased to see another relic from the Clone Wars persisting on.


    Kindness. Sometimes even the smallest acts of kindness had the furthest-reaching impacts, intended or otherwise. Syfu knew better than to ask the glaring questions of her---the answers weren’t important anymore. And he already knew them. A sermon was the last thing one wanted when they were that drunk—that hurt. A downtrodden fellow only spoke of what trauma they endured when they were ready to do so, and Syfu dared not presume a thing. Every path, every life was different. But every life was bound by the Force. She might have walked the darkest valleys, but some Jedi had to learn how to be Jedi by falling to the easy lure that was the Dark Side. Experience was a far better Master than any being titled such. There was a time and place for redemption speeches, interventions. No, it was far more effective to simply be there, in the same space.


    But Syfu had to believe the Force had brought him here; there were no coincidences, only the Force. Worse yet, the pair of them were stuck there in that desolate Mos Espa cantina. And he suspected that sandtorm outside wouldn’t relent until they had dealt with whatever this was. Other Jedi, ones more adherent to taking the Code literally, would have entered this scene knowing there was an enemy of the Order before them. But in his mind, only a Sith dealt in absolutes; no one was beyond redemption, should they choose to walk the difficult path. Whatever Arden had become now, Syfu knew in his heart of hearts that she would always be a friend. They might be adversaries for a moment, but there was no room left in his heart for grudges or hate anymore.


    Deep within the swirling chaos of emotions running roughshod in her Force aura, he could sense the struggle within. And the scent of death, it always left its mark on the killer no matter the circumstances. Arden might have won whatever battle she’d found herself in, but the war was just beginning. Syfu couldn’t help but see his own reflection looking back at him when he looked up from his bottle at her. The fear began to well up inside of him, threatening to take control of his steely nerve. Hundreds of battles waged across the galaxy, and this was the one Syfu Jin-Dyer was least prepared for. Jedha had been a lifetime ago. The Clone Wars a lifetime before that. It was a bloody miracle he had survived, let alone others coming through the Dark Times. Nobody was unchanged. In truth, coming upon any fallen Jedi was enough to break his heart. This was supposed to be a new Golden Age for the Order, a return to prominence as the valiant protectors of truth, justice and every good ideal the Republic held dear. But no so-called era of prominence came without unpleasant work behind the scenes. Most people thought that being a Jedi meant adventure, many lightsaber fights and a ton of introspective meditation. The reality was, it was a lot more meditation than anyone could anticipate with a dash of playing politics. In another time, lightsaber duels were far more widespread. Dark Force users ran rampant. The Sith of today preferred their shadow wars, safely hidden behind cutaway after cutaway to pull the strings.


    The quiet fall from grace of Jedi Knights, lost to despair like the one before him. Like he had once been. It might not be today, he thought, or tomorrow or the next day. But this one former Jedi needed his help whether she knew it, or wanted to accept it, or not. For a long time Syfu struggled with his own survivor’s guilt over Jedha. After all, it was he who led the Inquisitors there. It was he who parted ways with Arden after that dark chapter of their lives, instead of trying to combine their forces. But the Empire had proven they would hunt all Jedi to extinction, and it had made any gathering of Jedi quite dangerous. He had to quietly ask himself the question, was he responsible for this? Hubris, it was not the Jedi way. No. People made choices, and those choices had consequences.
     
  5. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    His presence was a punishment, unquestionably so. Syfu was a relic of her past: he had known her as a Padawan, and after the death of her Master, as a freshly-minted Jedi Knight who wanted little to do with the ethics of the Jedi Code or the ashes of war and where they had settled. Their acquaintance had been brief but pivotal, and here he was again, no doubt a sign that the Force had felt her misdeeds and judged her accordingly.

    As he moved closer, Arden realized how badly she simply wanted to get up and leave, despite the storm that raged outside. To be cut to ribbons by sharp wind and sand felt like a much more palatable fate than whatever might transpire between them, but her legs were stiff and cold, and her body protested against the mere notion of movement. True to their training, her victim fought well, resisted her tooth and nail until the very last, but it was her desperation and rage - tools most Jedi refused to call on - that won the day, overpowering patience and reason and all that the former Knight stood for in an instant. There was no taking it back, no changing what had already been done, and though he'd cracked her ribs and bruised her face in the melee, Arden was alive.

    Clinically, anyway.

    The smile that spread across her features was less an expression of joy and more a tired grimace, an attempt at something kind and human that felt a few feet short of being either. Careful to keep her eyes cast down and her head unturned - if she shifted in his direction, he would no doubt catch a glimpse of the purple and brown mess along her neck and jaw - Arden only nodded, searching for something else to say. She wanted to know why he was here, why this place, why now. But they were questions she could hardly answer herself, and it seemed fair to assume that the same vague wanderlust that had brought her to Tatooine had guided him here as well.

    Time had changed little: she was still the tall, dark-haired whip of a woman she had been on Jedha. Her skin was fairer, her hair longer, her clothes darker and more fitted than the dirty, sand-covered Jedi robes that had been so ubiquitous for their kind. The hands that gripped her glass were cut and bruised much like the rest of her, impossible to hide without making the effort to excavate a pair of gloves from her belongings as they sat beneath her chair.

    Silence stretched between them, and Arden only sighed. "Yeah."

    She didn't feel alive. But her heart was beating, so that was something. "Didn't think I'd see you all the way out here," she added, finally managing some hint of a smile.
     
  6. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Syfu took another measured swig from the bottle, the spice tingling every single taste bud at once. Admittedly, his favorite part of spiced rum. He wished the cantina served tea. “Bah. I’d say the bartender here has had far more interesting encounter here than I. Apparently a stolen New Republic droid wound up in the hands of a tribe of Jawas.” It had been quite some time since Syfu had an easy assignment like that, and of course, it had been too good to be true. Sure, the mission itself had been painless, but this… Maybe someone on Yavin IV knew all about what was happening now, had seen it in a vision, and that was why they had sent Syfu there. It was unknowable, so he pushed the thoughts aside for now. Scanning her face for a read, though it had been so many years that all he knew for certain was that neither of them were the same person they were back then. Well, he was still the same cool customer he was back then. Arden hadn’t been there to see his darkest days. No one had, save for those he hurt. But he certainly felt as if that was another life.


    He caught a glimpse of the bruising about her jawline, but her own inability to move was too easily chalked up to inebriation for Syfu to realize the full extent of her injuries. But the day was yet young. Yes, he could see it now. She had been in some kind of fight, one that had some profound impact upon her. This was what Yoda and Master Windu had called a Shatterpoint. A minor one, and one that seemingly only affected her destiny, but perhaps the greater destiny as well. One could never tell. Whatever she had done now, it had left its mark on her. And this was when Arden would learn about herself, just what she was really made of. It was these moments that defined a person, how they dealt with the fallout of their choices. Not how they fought a duel, or dealt with the mundane tasks of day-to-day, but how they responded to stressors.


    “Unless, of course,” he began to add, “day drinking is your new favorite pastime.” Syfu didn’t dare ask her what she was doing all the way out in the ass-end of nowhere like this. Not directly, anyway. Part of him truly didn’t want to know. A friendly jab of wits didn’t require an answer like a pointed question did, but often got more answers than direct interrogation. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, but more than Syfu probably cared too much. Were her senses sharper, she could have felt the pangs of sadness and guilt from his Force presence he failed to mask.


    Almost reflexively, a slight wave of calming, healing energy eked out through the Force, almost like a defensive mechanism to help avoid any emotional entanglements. It was akin to foresight, like Syfu had premonitions, unknowingly, of the situation taking a dark twist. It wasn’t enough to mend cracked ribs or even particularly deep bruises, but a minor shot of actual resolve as opposed to the liquid kind she had poured down her gullet mindlessly. A preemptive measure on potential short tempers. In reality, Syfu took the ‘there is no emotion, only peace’ tenant of the Code to an extreme sometimes. Running from and generally not dealing with emotions was not the same as not letting them take control.
     
  7. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    The laugh that followed his remark was unexpected, shooting past her lips before Arden could even think to suppress it. Brief and bitter, the former Knight shook her head, unable to believe he'd managed to get a reaction out of her - and so quickly, too. Lifting her glass, she scrutinized the ice, the water spots, the thin lines of wear and tear that glimmered under the dim bar light, as though she might find something unexpected lurking in the weathered crystal. "I wouldn't call it new," she responded, unable to control the wry, upward tilt of her lips.

    Alcohol had been as much a companion to her as a vice, a constant comfort against the harsh truths of the galaxy. It was plentiful and cheap, and enough of it could dull the sharp edges of what it meant to be a Force user in a sea of strangers. Polluting herself to the point of dreamless sleep had become almost routine - what else was an impossibly empathetic ne'er do well to do? - but after the Empire swooped in, she'd hardly had the time to fall back into old habits. Until now.

    Struggling to focus behind the inebriation and the mediocre lighting, Arden tilted her head to one side, curiously regarding one bottle among the dozens that lined the back wall of the bar. Filled with a blush-pink liquid, there was nothing exceptional about it save for it's color, a swirling hue not entirely unlike the desert sunsets on Jedha. Raising her good arm to point, she didn't look at the man behind the counter - she didn't want to know him, or remember anything about this place - as she held the pose, long enough to be sure he knew what she was talking about. "That one," she mumbled, pausing to remember her manners. "Please."

    Up close, the bottle was still fairly unremarkable: golden glitter and some kind of thicker, orange colored suspension hinted it was more than a standard bottle of wine, though the credits exchanged for the vessel seemed reasonable, given their location. Pouring it into her glass, unperturbed by the lingering ice, she nudged it in Syfu's direction before taking a swig. Fruity. Incorrigibly sweet, but still sort of dry. And the glitter was.. tangible, sticky against her lips as she wiped the back of her hand across her lips. Not the worst, but she'd certainly had better.

    Wordlessly, she finally turned to face him, finally giving in to her curiosity. Time changed people, no doubt. But Syfu seemed to bear the scars of the time more obviously than others - not that it detracted from his appearance any. Sighing, resigned to the fact that they were here and there was no other option but to endure, Arden regarded him with a small, slowly warming smile. Perhaps her defenses weren't quite as impenetrable as she hoped they could be. "What happened to your eye?" In the brief time they had known each other, she had never asked, too absorbed in her own misery to recognize anyone else's pain.
     
  8. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Unable to judge Arden on her drinking, the weary Knight chose not to press the matter any further. A second bottle, at least the second for his brief time here, had been chosen and delivered. Failure to cope with the harsh realities of life was surprisingly common among even the Knights of the old Republic. But this was not the strong-willed apprentice he remembered from Jedha. This was someone who had succumbed to all the noise inside their head; and he couldn’t blame her. Hell, he had been there and it hadn’t been that long ago. A decade, maybe less. Maybe more. The passage of time had always felt a bit….unconventional to him.



    Syfu paused, considering. Not what to say, but how to say it. Almost a lifetime ago, he had learned that he was the master of the unspoken word, for once it left his mouth he had no control over it any longer. It wasn’t that she had asked about his eye, of all things. But rather that she chose such an interesting question to ask of him. Pointed, was more like. It had been close to his darkest hour, at the height of the Clone Wars. Nobody but Nyx, RC-1111 and the rest of the Spartans knew what had truly happened, all that time ago.


    The unpleasantness of the memories began to take hold in his mind, in the span of an instant as he pondered his words. Syfu inhaled sharply, after a long moment, careful to keep his one good eye zeroed in on her face as he spoke. “It was just after the Pantoran incident—back during the ‘Wars,” his gaze faltered, bouncing back and forth as he went a million parsecs away, pulse quickening and perspiration starting to bead up at the top of his forehead. Another deep breath. “My apprentice and I fell victim to Separatist skullduggery, and were taken captive. I was tortured.” The memories began to flood his mind, becoming more vivid with each passing nanosecond. Syfu didn’t want to think about it anymore, he didn’t want to think about Nyx anymore.


    He took another drink from his own bottle, this time a big mouthful. The spice tingled the whole of his mouth, throat and all as it went down like a wad of ground glass. “Days, weeks, the time didn’t seem to pass at all,” he rasped through the harsh liquor. “One day, the interrogation droids just went to work on me, with Nyx in the restraints across from me. Every time she refused to answer a question charged of her, I got the rod.” A smile crept in, turning that scarred face upward, but he shook it off with a single wag of the head. The smile receded to a full-on scowl, his brow suddenly quite heavy with the weight of his own thoughts. “The thing about droids is they’re precision instruments; they do exactly what you tell them to, exactly how you tell them. Humanoid interrogators are susceptible to emotion—so when things simply weren’t going the Interrogator’s way anymore, I caught a heat sealing rod to the eye.”


    It was all he was going to say about it for the moment. In truth, Syfu wasn’t sure how much longer either of them could have held out, but neither of them had to find out. A single tear of blood welled in his atrophied eye, running down the length of his scarred face before staining his slightly graying beard, still as unkempt and wild as it had been when they first met. Thoughts had turned to Nyx, her face filled with agony, and him helpless to do anything but watch her crack as he slowly broke. The eye within his mind saw only red for a moment, just one painstaking moment before the calming breath came. Syfu shut his eyes, exhaled, returning his gaze to Arden at long last—shoving the pain out from his thoughts as he had shed it one hundred times before.


    There was no emotion, only peace.
     
  9. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    To better listen to him speak, Arden shifted her weight on the chair. She knew the pain was coming - a wrenching ache beneath her ribs, the displaced ends of bones grinding against one another - and forced herself not to wince as her body protested the change. Torso turned to him, she propped her elbow up on the bar and rested her cheek against her palm, free hand balancing the glitter-infused glass against her knee. She was present, as much as anyone who had been drinking since sunrise could be, but as he spoke she found herself studying his face, memorizing the angles of his cheekbones and his chin, comparing it to what she remembered. But Jedha was a muddled blur, one she forced from her mind as soon as the planet was in her rearview. The mention of his apprentice forced a similar attempt at recollection, but the woman's face as it coalesced in her memory was blank. A vague form, devoid of detail or personality; funny that someone who meant so much to one person could be utterly inconsequential to another.

    After a few moments, the words themselves didn't matter. Despite her attempts to shut herself off from the Force, she could still feel the pain that ebbed from his recollection, the soft miasma of despair that accompanied his explanation. It felt tight in her throat, enough so that she eventually turned her head, unable - or at the very least, unwilling - to hold eye contact as his thoughts crept in and his smile faltered, detailing the event that had left such an indelible mark on both the man's skin and psyche. The anger that welled up in her was difficult to place: was she mad that he had endured something as terrible as being tortured, or that she had never thought to ask him sooner? Or perhaps it was the knowledge that she was no better than the droids who had beaten him; the Separatists had been in bed with the Sith, and now.. so was she.

    The High Inquisitor called her a researcher - his assistant - but Arden knew better than that. A blaster was a blaster. And an apprentice was an apprentice.

    Arden found herself at an impasse. There were so many things she wanted to say, so many questions she wanted to ask. But she could feel him doing that thing, the Jedi thing, reigning his emotions in, and it only furthered her frustrations. Why bother? The Jedi were gone, slaughtered by their Clones, what point was there in trying to adhere to their teachings? Their philosophies lost them a war. Wiped out generations of scholars and soldiers. Left her on a dead planet, stranded for half her life, waiting to die. But she knew, somehow, that there was no point in giving her anger a voice. Syfu wasn't alone in trying to escape his pain. There was no healthy reason to be at a cantina in the middle of the day, drinking like a monster, refusing to tend to one's wounds. Arden relished in her misery, and made it her armor; surely nothing could hurt her if she hurt herself first.

    "I'd say it suits you, but I don't know you without it." Knocking back her drink and proceeding to pour another glass, she shook her head. "Shame, I guess. Would've been easier to endure Jedha with you rather than Davo."
     
  10. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    It wasn’t until he purged the pain that he could see her own—the physical damage. Where Arden wore her pain like armor, Syfu wore the Code. And he could sense it more clearly now, the darkness within her, she was feeding it even now. There was no emotion, only peace, he reminded himself again—clinging to the tenant like a drunk stuck on a twelve-step program.


    “The past is just a story,” he recited as if rehearsed endlessly. “Once you accept that, it loses all power over you.” Syfu shrugged, not entirely certain he believed himself. The past was a terrible thing, at least his past. Then again, there wasn’t a Jedi on record who didn’t have a tragic story or two. That he had lived was proof enough that it was the Inquisitors who had ultimately failed in their task to hunt down and destroy the remnants of the Jedi, post Order 66. He didn’t want to think about Jedha, either, but she had forced those memories to rise to the top of his mind too. He had been forced to kill the love of his life that day, when all their dark deeds had finally caught up with them.


    “No, that is inadequate,” he corrected himself before she had a chance to rebut and locked his one eyed stare directly to her soft face. It was funny how when he only had eyes for Nyx, the elegant beauty that was Arden Marr had eluded him. It was her eyes that were the most captivating, so vibrantly full of life, despite it all. But not being mindful of attachments was what had landed him exactly where he was now. Syfu Jin-Dyer was nothing if not sincere, that much at least had remained intact over the decades. “I regret leaving Jedha without you.” Typical Jedi-speak; Syfu wasn’t prepared yet to reveal that he had some inkling of what she had become now. Certainly, things would have turned out differently for them, had they grouped together back then; they would both be dead at the hands of the Inquisitors. ANY gathering of Jedi in the Dark Times, as they had become known, was beyond foolhardy.


    Perhaps that was why it was so difficult to face her as he was, the guilt from knowing he possibly could have prevented Arden’s fall to the Dark Side. More than that, he had broken his own code for survival—leave no one behind. If RC-1111 had left him behind, he would be no better off than Arden, and that was exactly what he had done—left her to die on Jedha, and in that fostered her walk down the Dark path. But perhaps this was a second chance for the both of them. And he could practically feel her curiosity burning, but ironically was blind to her own wanting eyes, but one had to be quite direct when it came to matters of the heart with Syfu.
     
  11. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    It was strange to think that the girl who left Jedha and the woman she had become were the same being, separated only by time. Arden recognized the fires of her youth for what they were: short-lived and foolish at best, needlessly destructive and cruel at worst. She had been quick to vilify the Jedi, as was her right - losing one's youth to a dead planet was a hell of a price to pay for being born Force Sensitive - and every decision she made was a less than subtle jab at the Order that had consumed, and completely ruined, her young life. To live her life as a criminal was to spit in the eye of every mentor who proclaimed to have seen the Light inside her spirit, and for a long time, Arden embraced her past only to fuel the anger that propelled her through life.

    She never asked to be a Jedi. Never had a choice in the matter either, being a child at the time. Was there anyone in the galaxy who wouldn't harbor some resentments to an Order that made them a fugitive by association alone? Perhaps Syfu was capable of such feats, but he was an outlier in more ways than one; even still, Arden wondered less about his regrets and more about what could crawl beneath his skin and inspire the same fiery rage that had sent her away from the Order, away from the Force, and into the arms of the Hutt Cartel. If not the death of his apprentice, than what? It was entirely probable he was simply a better person than her, given the crimes that stained her conscience even now.

    "Ah," his confession dredged up a wicked grin. "Then we would both be dead." And maybe that was all they could hope for. "I mean, Tatooine is bad, but is death really better than this?" Gesturing vaguely to the bar, Arden realized that.. well, yes. Becoming one with the Force was probably a lot more pleasant than drinking cheap, awful liquor on a shithole planet, questionable company or otherwise. Waving a finger as if to erase what she had just said, Arden paused to speak before taking another drink. "Don't answer that." Death was painless. Life was suffering.

    Exhaling a sigh, one that tasted of overly sweet fruit and alcohol and that Force-damned glitter, the Inquisitor shook her head. "You didn't owe me anything then," she started, speaking slowly. The words were quiet and carefully chosen, as if treading a path she couldn't quite see. "If you hadn't come to Jedha, I.. probably would've died there, on that rock. I hated that man. I would've killed him or died trying. The Empire beat me to it, that's all."

    But for all her talk of hatred, there was no anger behind her voice. Only sadness and resignation, realizing how far she had strayed from the Light, even as a child.
     
  12. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    The man he was now, wasn’t the man he had always been. He HAD fallen and been redeemed---such a thing was beyond no one. A smirk made of mirth dared grace his face as she caught her own ridiculous statement. Of course joining the eternal flow was far better than corporeal life, it was why a Jedi didn’t fear death as their counterparts. But the smile quickly faded as the conversation took yet another turn into left quadrant, his expression sagging with his shoulders now. Silently, Syfu contemplated her words for just a moment or two, pushing his own bottle away from him, but still in easy reach. Enough for now. It only served to dull his senses, and propagate the sadness. Drinking never let one forget, it always made one remember until they passed out—drunks simply didn’t remember remembering.


    A sharp inhale through his nose, and he lifted his chin to meet her gaze again. He hadn’t known Davo well, or much at all; there were thousands of Jedi Knights at the apex before the fall. And all things fell. So too did they pass, which was what made life, well…livable. “What did you hate about him?” Syfu asked, though it seemed more a statement than a question. Hate…. It had its uses. He knew from his time on Mandalore from his talks with the real Jinn Beviin, rage was a hell of an anesthetic. It could sustain a person; allow them to subsist beyond their capacity. It had been said by countless generations before them, that hate was chief on the path down the Dark Side. His own outrage at slaying another Jedi had dulled his emotions for many a month. It had helped him to learn his birthright, and how to conduct oneself as a Mando’ade. But it was ultimately peace that helped him to master himself and his techniques. But for all his resolve, his supposed inner peace, it was a subject he didn’t broach—hadn’t broached since….


    Nevertheless, there it was, the challenge thrown down on the bartop for her to accept or deny as she pleased. A simple question. A conversation about hate, about the Dark Times. The Dark Side. The next step was to get Arden off the bottle, but her inebriation suited his needs for the moment, the truth always came out when one’s inhibitions were lowered, whether they realized it or not. Though it seemed she was playing right into his hand, the future was far from certain, and he lacked the arrogance required to know how this would end. But what he failed to keep in terms of arrogance, Syfu made up for it in spades with confidence. Earnest confidence, the kind born from a high sense of self, but tempered with the Jedi Code—or what he followed of it anyway. However, his question was no trick, nor trap though it might have seemed. He expected Arden to hit the defensive straight away, to swell with hurt pride and false ego. Perhaps he didn’t know her at all, and that was the truest admission of all; To acknowledge knowing nothing was the ultimate wisdom.


    Internally, he reached out through the Force to touch his compatriot’s mind. Nothing so perverse as to detect a lie, or peruse the loosened-by-liquor steel trap for secrets. Only to remind her, subtly, that he was there, with an open mind and ears. Syfu had always formed attachments to others so easily that it alarmed more than a few of the masters of his time. It was empathy he fostered, and it was empathy that won friendships, forged brotherhood. To deny it was to deny all that was essential and good, conducive to life. And to navigate the course they had, without realizing it, embarked upon it required the both of them to durasteel their resolve and push.
     
  13. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    The regret was instant: she had said too much. Arden would've blamed it on the alcohol - on the whiskey and the whatever-it-was that sat across from her, equal parts enticing and nauseating - but she knew better than to take the easy way out. Maybe it weakened her defenses somewhat, but it didn't make her say things. No, that was entirely her own doing. But her admission revealed something about Syfu, too: he wasn't so merciful as to let her confession slide, a fact she wasn't entirely sure she could fault him for, given their shared association and current predicament.

    The realization she had misspoke was written all over her face, in the way she blinked slowly, lips pressed into a thin line. There was no way to walk it backward, no graceful manner in which to take it all back, and so she simply sat there, once again staring into the emptiness of her glass hoping it would magically provide her some kind of answer. It didn't, of course, and glancing up to catch the bartender's eye she realized their privacy was less than what she might've hoped it had been, the guarded curiosity in the man's eye more than indicative of the fact their conversation was being listened to. He was probably harmless - a nobody among nobodies - but what if he was with the Empire? What if she was putting him in danger, putting a target on both their heads..?

    Slowly, she exhaled and rubbed her palms across the tired length of her face.There were booths on the far end of the bar that might offer some degree of secrecy, but they were further away than she might've liked, in her condition. They were also further from the liquor, and thus, a total non-option. Syfu had pushed his away, but Arden wasn't so sure she could follow in his footsteps; the cumulative hangover might actually kill her, given the kind of luck she'd been having. But the idea they were being listened to just didn't sit right with her, and though it meant playing her hand - exposing herself for the awful, broken thing she was both inside and out - she eventually stood up and closed the distance between them, easing herself into the courtesy seat he'd left between them.

    Taking the time to scoot her glass and the various bottles closer, she poured herself another drink and considered her options. She could lie. And drink. Or she could tell him the truth. And also drink.

    His empathetic reach was like a buzzing fly: impossible to swat, equally incapable of being ignored. She felt it but she didn't want to let it in, even if some small part of her yearned for the warmth of being heard, of being understood.

    "I didn't want to be a Jedi," she confessed, speaking softly. "They were going to kick me out. Send me to the Corps." Arden shook her head, as if forcing the memories away. "But he persisted. They sent us to Jedha like it was some kind of.. I don't know, punishment-slash-pilgrimage. To reconnect with the Force."

    Speaking to her glass rather than the man beside her, Arden was at a loss. There were few words to describe what it felt like to be kidnapped, to be conscripted. "I just wanted to go home."
     
  14. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    That they were being listened in on wasn’t totally beyond him, but Syfo had sensed nothing untoward from the grimy barkeep, save for the usual sort of street level scum common to the whole of Tattooine. His eye followed her as Arden stood, closed the gap between them. Closeness took him from his comfort zone, more apt to keeping people at a respectful physical distance. Embracing another was quite possibly the highest compliment Syfu could have paid anyone. It made him feel vulnerable, perhaps some leftover phobia from his own fall. He hadn’t so much as clapped another upon the shoulders since Jinn Beviin. It had taken Nyx years to earn so much as a masterly hug. Let alone the rest that accompanied their relationship.



    It hit him hard—he had a luxury in his training as a Jedi that Syfu had failed to realize was not a luxury afforded to most Padawans. His name wasn’t his own, he hadn’t known any other home than Coruscant until the Dark Times fell. Arrak had done well to conceal the truth from him; it was for his own good from a certain point of view. He, too, now regretted wholly the asking of the question. The confession itself caught him off-guard, but to hear the words, no—the truth… No child chose to be a Jedi, the Jedi life chose them. No one asked to be born Force Sensitive, and no one asked to carry such burdens as the pair of them did.


    Syfu leaned back on his stool slightly, his mouth agape as if he had something to say, but the words simply failed him. But if she were bold enough to air it out, the Jedi Knight was bold enough to hear it. After what felt like eons passing inside his head, Syfu mustered the words. There would be no lecture. No Jedi Wisdom Words. Nothing but an honest response to an honest confession. The words came out calm, though his emotions betrayed him entirely. Her story sounded all too familiar, for Nyx had also been on the verge of being shipped out to the Agricultural Corps. Syfu had persisted, too, as Davo had. “It is we who punish ourselves.” Not a question, or even an accusation, but fact cold and hard as the truth Arden had laid bare. No assignment from the Council was a punishment, though it was oft perceived as such by those not experienced enough to realize the wisdom of the Masters. Such things, as unknowable as they were to Syfu, had tipped the scales of balance toward the Dark Side in Anakin Skywalker.


    There was no more calm. No more peace. Even by now she could surely feel his own walls crashing down with haste. The sadness, the shock, the guilt, the pain. Most of all, the fear. Fear that he no longer had the strength to finish what he had started, so nonchalantly. The portrait within his mind’s eye was nearly completed; it all made sense. Arden Marr hadn’t become broken, she had been born so. And life had disparaged her through the whole of it. Syfu dared not move his one-eyed gaze from her, despite his lack of comfort and the turbulent maelstrom of emotions raging within.


    Did he really want to know what weighed so heavy on her heart that she took her meals in liquid form from whatever bottle was in reach? Unsure, but unwavering, Syfu allowed the query to end all questions to spill from his mouth and into the tension that mounted in the shrinking space between them. “What is it that troubles you so, Arden Marr?”
     
  15. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    It would've taken a mountain of alcohol - more than the Outer Rim could provide, perhaps - to dull herself to the point where she could no longer feel Syfu's discomfort. The fear was palpable, thin on her tongue, a sharp contrast to the deep well of regret that seemed to emanate from his form. It struck her then that her confession was not without consequence: by removing the burden from her shoulders, it seemed as though she had placed it squarely on his, transferring the weight of a lifetime spent resenting the Jedi Order, and the circumstances of one's birth. She didn't like it. It wasn't fair.

    But she couldn't take it back. She was responsible for her words, for her actions, and for the effect they had on those around her. It was a difficult thing to accept culpability for - no one wanted to believe they could hurt someone by speaking their truth - but she could feel it in him, a storm of emotion that, though carefully controlled, showed little sign of passing. Maybe he was in the same situation, a wayward child conscripted by strangers to fight a losing war, or her story mirrored that of someone he once knew. Or maybe he was just too empathetic, too easily swayed by the honesty and emotion that spilled unchecked from her mouth.

    She wanted to confess, more than anything. But there were no words for the thing she had become: she was a Jedi Killer, a hunter of the fallen, an Inquisitor not only in name but by deed. The offer had seemed so straightforward: join or die. Revenge or die. But so few things in the galaxy were as simple as this-or-that, yes-or-no. Killing didn't change the past. It didn't bring her any closer to closure, and she certainly didn't find any pleasure in the act. So what was the point? Kill or be killed - was it really a noble thing to choose survival when it inflicted so much pain?

    It would've been exceptionally cruel to give him what he asked for. If there was a sign of light in her, some shred of decency left, it was that she shook her head and smiled sadly, refusing to give in.

    Cheek once again propped up in her hand, she shook her head almost imperceptibly. "I think I'm in over my head. Coming to terms with how things have changed is harder than I thought it would be." Vague, but honest. She couldn't do much better than that.

    Reaching out, she pulled the bottle of rum closer, refilling his glass. It brought her that much closer, if only for an instant, before she returned to her own (much smaller) bubble of personal space. "Thanks for hearing me out. It, uh.." A flustered laugh broke the silence, expression softening as she turned away. "I appreciate it."
     
  16. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    People made choices, and those choices had consequences. Syfu didn’t care if she were honest with him, only that she was honest with herself. Guilt killed a person bit by bit, piece by piece until there was nothing left but an empty shell of what used to be an individualistic beauty. Despite the bad, life was worth living. But he was accustomed to carrying a heavy load. “I...” he let the lone word hang as she filled the glass. “It is nothing. Thank you for talking about it.” In hearing her own confession, Syfu had learned that he himself still carried much, too much, upon his shoulders broad. The weight of a world was nothing for him, but the weight of two fallen Apprentices was more akin to the weight of an entire galaxy. Once she had completed the pour, Syfu slid the bottle over to her. It certainly wasn’t the best rum he had ever tasted, but it was far from the worst.


    He wouldn’t press the issue today. There had to be trust between them for her to speak more openly. And trust was a two-way-avenue.


    Syfu drew in a hearty breath, slow and steady, and exhaled the negative with it, returning to his naturally calm state. In truth it wasn’t so bad to have her sitting next to him. It seemed easy, almost natural, but the problem was his and his alone. With one hand, he raised the freshly filled glass to his lips, taking in an average sip. The other slipped inside his raggedy, tattered outer robe to retrieve his now chirping commlink, placing it on the bartop before them and switched it off. Jedi business could wait another day or two; his work in the present wasn’t yet at a close. “A Jedi’s work is never done,” he commented, taking another sip from his glass of spiced rum, offering up a genuinely warm smile.


    It had been too long since Syfu had simply sat and enjoyed the company of another. Though he was a man of few words, conversation was one of the few great pleasures he took in this life. In his opinion, too many took for granted the wondrousness of sitting in silence with another. But there were too few left that he could say was truly a friend and not just an ally though the Purge was to thank for that. And unbeknownst to him, she had played her part in it. Little did Arden know, Syfu would forgive her in an instant, though that wasn’t the forgiveness she needed to seek; it was her who needed to forgive herself, but such things took time. But time was something the weary Knight had in spades.


    The smile soon turned to a wry sort-of grin, the wheels in his head turning with increasing speed. “Tell me this, then,” Syfu insisted cheerfully. “Have you kept up with your martial training?” It had been….quite some time since he felt the challenge of a good spar. Among the few Jedi of this New Order he had met, few were worthy training partners as the majority of the old knowledge had been lost to time. Sparring was easily the most pleasurable thing Syfu actively practiced. He was always hungry to grow stronger, though not out of any misguided sense of ego. There truly was nothing quite like pushing past one’s own barriers, moving the limit further downfield. And he hungered to know just how strong Arden had grown in all that time.
     
  17. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    There were few people Arden could claim to genuinely enjoy the company of. Her new Master made her nervous - he was a man of the Empire with seemingly impossibly high standards, who looked as though he could crush her with a flick of his wrist - and beyond that, her interactions with others were fleeting at best. People always seemed to rub her the wrong way (or she them) to the point where her best company was whatever drink she had at hand, and whatever the HoloNet had to offer. Even Syfu's appearance had filled her with trepidation; was their reunion going to be as painful as their parting? In some ways, it certainly was. But what came after, the gentle silence, the creeping comfort, made it seem worthwhile. It was a strange thing to relax, but Arden was too drunk and too tired to fight the ease that loosened her posture, allowing her some measure of contentment as they spoke.

    All too eager to leave her confession in the past, his question elicited a slow smile, barely restrained. It was a smile that hid any number of secrets, and though it should've been a bittersweet topic - indeed, if she answered him honestly he might know the extent of what weighed so heavily on her mind - she refused to let herself succumb to guilt yet again. Enough was enough, at least for now.

    "I bare my soul and you're asking if I still play with Jedi swords?" She asked, leaning in with a decidedly conspiratorial air. Her tone was all deadpan sarcasm, the joke given away completely by the lingering grin and playful light in her eyes that she couldn't quite will away.

    Pausing, she poured a small helping of rum and knocked it back, before pushing both the bottle and the glass away. Enough was enough, indeed. "Of course I have." Any surviving Jedi would've been foolish to give it up. While not the end all, be all weapon, a lightsaber was quite a bit of leverage to have when one was being pursued, and even before her conscription Arden had certainly made good use of what the Jedi had taught her to wield.

    Turning her head to give him the full view of her face, swollen around her cheek and bruised heavily along her neck and jaw, she shook her head. "Not exactly in fighting form at the moment, though."
     
  18. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Utterly delightful. There was the Arden he liked to remember. Even the barbs of sarcasm were a damn sight better than what they had just gone through, but then that was the point. If she were finished laying it all out for now, it was time for happier times. Finally able to believe what he had said to her just a few minutes ago, about the past being just a story. “I can fix that,” Syfu said with a slight chuckle.


    Eyes welded shut, he took a breath and reached out through the Force—careful not to invade her privacy. He slipped into a meditative trance with relative ease, concentrating on the physical ailments, separating them from the rest. Yes, he could see the full extent of it now, cracked ribs and all. Non life-threatening wounds were much simpler and easier to heal than the grievous sort. A hand reached out, arm extended toward Arden, but stopping short of actual physical contact by a margin of inches. The hand began to radiate energy, manifested physically by a small green swirling aura, while he willed the healing energy to its intended destinations. Such a thing was not without its cost to the healer, however. Most often, Syfu required a small period of rest to recharge his organic batteries. But it would be of no consequence. Training while exhausted was dangerous, but yielded results like nothing else.


    The breaths he drew became more labored as the process went on, mouth falling slightly agape to compensate. After a few long minutes, the Bartender saw her face and neck return to normal. Had the dusty fellow any doubts about the Jedi Knights returning to their rightful place, they were not long for existence. And then, Syfu opened his eyes and lowered his hand, his respiration returning to normal. “There,” he sighed out before standing from the stool. A complacent smile dared make its way to the forefront of his scarred face as he took a few measured steps backward into the open floor of the Cantina. With a flourish, that tattered brown robe had been shed, gracefully drifting to the floor to settle in a lump of raggedy cloth that had truly seen better days. Each hand went to flip the release latch for the beskar on his torso, sending it clanging to the dirty floor most ungracefully.


    A pair of lightsabers were now visible on his belt, one full-sized the one he had always carried, the other a shoto-style that had once belonged to his padawan. Syfu rolled his neck from side to side, the vertebrae cracking and popping most satisfyingly. Pulling the full sized hilt to his dominant hand with the Force, he assumed the fighting stance and ignited the brilliant viridian blade with a swift flourish. The blade pointed outward, in typical Makashi form. A dangerous duelist was he; position and leverage came as natural to him as breathing. “Come!” he bellowingly beckoned as if he had some kind of authority.


    “Show me what you’ve learned…”
     
  19. Arden Marr

    Arden Marr Inquisitor
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    "You don't need to.."

    Arden realized mid-sentence that it was pointless to protest, her voice trailing off as he adopted a familiar stance. "..do.. that."

    There was something off-putting about being the recipient of the strange sort of healing some Jedi could do, but she had experienced it so infrequently that it was difficult to discern the reasons why. There was an element of vulnerability, no doubt - being the target of anyone's machinations within the Force always felt odd - but perhaps more than that it represented a lack of control. Her body was healthy and strong; it would heal on its own, given enough time to do so. Having that natural course diverted and accelerated robbed her of the ability to effectively lick her wounds, putting her health in the hands of another.

    But then again, there was little sense in suffering. She could've moved, distanced herself from him in an attempt to sever the tenuous connection between them. Instead she sat still, watching his face as he worked. It almost felt invasive to study him as he worked, deep in meditation to repair the damage that had been done, but Arden couldn't help herself. Things had changed, yes - but he was still the same man she had known on Jedha so many years ago.

    Slowly, she could feel the inebriation ebb from her mind. The room seemed clearer, less fuzzy around the edges, no longer prone to tilting at random. Her stomach settled as the injuries subsided, the throbbing in her head giving way to tranquility as he finished his work. She felt buzzed, but not completely wasted, no longer suffering the consequences that came with drinking like an absolute monster. Whether that was his intention or not, Arden wasn't so sure. Would he still like her company with her defenses at the ready? There was only one way to be sure.

    Still reeling from the repair, Arden watched him with amused disbelief, shaking her head as he made a grand display of showing her how ready he was to fight. "You're insane," she laughed, palm covering her mouth to disguise the sound. Eyes shooting toward the window, taking note of the sunlight that seemed to peek through the dying storm, she finally acquiesced, albeit with her own provision: "Let's not demolish this guy's bar."

    Rising to her feet, Arden settled her tab with a handful of credits tossed across the counter. Hands deep in the pockets of her jacket she moved toward the exit, turning on her heel to beckon him with an inward curl of her index finger. She was a terrible person, through and through. But the last thing she wanted to be responsible for was a ruined cantina and a tab far larger than she could pay.

    Stepping out into the sunlight - amazed again that they hadn't been drinking in the middle of the night - she removed her left hand from her coat, fingers wrapped tightly around the weathered hilt of her lightsaber. The wind no longer howled, no longer threatened to tear wayward travelers asunder with grit and sand; rather, the breeze was warm and the sun was bright, though the air seemed perpetually hazy, waves of dust suspended in the heat. It wasn't entirely unpleasant, especially the light on her pale skin, though Arden already looked forward to washing the mess from her hair once they were through.

    There was no waiting for opening stances, no time for words. Moving far enough down the desert road to clear the cantina, her blade snapped to life - the same brilliant orange-gold it had been in her youth - and she turned on a heel to rush him, her movements quick and decisive. There was a grace to it, evocative of her Jedi training, but the blows were brief and difficult to predict: a hint as to where she had been and who she had been leaning from.
     
  20. Sanjuro

    Sanjuro Initiate
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    Perhaps he had gotten ahead of himself, wanting to start things inside the cantina. But at least the storm had subsided. It just went to show how little attention he had paid to the world outside them. The streets were still empty, and she had given him little time to prepare. But little did she know, he was always prepared.


    As she worked the offensive first, Syfu slipped into a defensive posture, using a bit of Form II to batt away the blows, wielding his lightsaber in one hand only. The other had reflexively went to rest behind his back, fist clenched tight. Perhaps he had gotten ahead of himself, wanting to start things inside the cantina. But at least the storm had subsided. It just went to show how little attention he had paid to the world outside them. The streets were still empty, and she had given him little time to prepare. But little did she know, he was always prepared.


    As she worked the offensive first, Syfu slipped into a defensive posture, using a bit of Form III to batt away the blows, wielding his lightsaber in one hand only. The other had reflexively went to rest behind his back, fist clenched tight. The aggressive style was a dangerous one, allowing the user to channel all of their inner darkness. His defense was solid, but even he couldn’t last against a vicious onslaught for long, without going back on the offensive himself. That she wielded such a dangerous form with such ease was most telling, though he had already suspected. It was no matter, she hadn’t tried to kill him without him asking her to.


    As he side-stepped, back-stepped and pedaled back, Syfu wheeled around on a dime, changing his defensive posture and channeling the kinetic energy he had collected in his riposte. Pressing the advantage, it was time to give her just a taste of his Makashi. As graceful as the old fountains in the Coruscant temple, his movements flowed free and fluid, his body loose and nimble, and his strikes precise and powerful. With minimal movement, there was maximum advantage. Or rather, it was a simple matter to use Arden’s aggressive leverage against her. The crackling as their blades met filled the immediate area.


    She was proficient. Most excellent. Syfu would need to utilize much in order to seize a victory, though who won was far from important here. No, this was as pure a sport as it got. At least for the Jedi Guardian of old. Caught in a deadly flurry of blows, Syfu used the Force to augment his own strength, pushing himself off the ground just enough to send a boot-clad foot into her chest in an attempt to knock her back, leveraging his movements into a backflip to put distance between them should his kick not have landed as expected.


    In truth, he hadn’t expected her to have kept up with such practice for all her talk of never wanting to be a Jedi. Syfu took unexpected delight in the revelation. Even fewer could have lasted as long as she had against his blade. But he hadn’t yet begun to use the whole of his power. Not in a sense of toying with his opponent, but more out of a sense of playing to the level of his competition. Usually a contest of blades with Syfu was decided in the first strikes, and there were few he knew could have lasted as long as she had so far. And in part, he wanted to see the whole of her fury before revealing his own. Yes, she had kept up with her skills. It brought that mirth-made smile back to his face, though his eyes were narrowed squarely on Arden, his mind emptied from all the usual noise; he had become a mere vessel for the Force to guide him, in-tune with the situation. Few battles passed as elegantly as how they behaved now, and it truly was delightful.