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  #1    
Old December 9th, 2011, 02:30 PM
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PROLOGUE

I barely notice the arrow that flies just in front of my face. I can hear the shouts of the soldiers on both sides, but it is so faint. The sky is darkened by arrows and smoke, but the burning buildings keep the light. Bloody bodies are scattered about the ground, and swords lay dead and useless in their lifeless hands. But I cannot even see all the horrors surrounding me. That is all behind me now. The huge battle raging at my back is now only a long forgotten memory. Everything in the world is now a memory, except for the gravestone that sits before me.

I have already read the name, but I wish I hadn't. The words crudely etched into the rock are like daggers, piercing my heart with grief and longing. I want to cry, but find I don't have the strength needed for tears. Images flood my mind, images of the person whose name is carved in the stone. I push them out as best I can. My scythe clatters to the ground, but it makes no sound. Weakly, I fall to my knees. I feel as though in a dream, but this is more like a nightmare. My eyelids grow heavy, so I let them close. I hope that I can forget the gravestone, but the name is imprinted, permanently into my mind. I do not see, I do not feel, I do not breathe. I seem to be falling. I can no longer tell if I'm awake or asleep. Am I even alive? If that name no longer exists, if the one who lies beneath that accursed rock is gone, them truly, I am dead. I fade into memories long past, of the girl I was, of those I loved, and of him...
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Old December 9th, 2011, 03:15 PM
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For starters, I'm not fond of the centred text. It's okay when it serves a purpose, but it doesn't seem to do so here. Unless it's imperative, I'd recommend just flipping to the usual left-aligned formatting.

That aside, this works superbly well as a prologue. It raises a million fascinating questions which hook the reader in: which forces are battling? Whose gravestone is it? Why is it so important? Who is this chick, and why does she have a scythe? How did she get here, and why? It makes me very keen to come back and check it out again.

There's not much to say about your writing style as of yet. I didn't notice any mistakes, which is good. You do make good use of tone to set the mood of the piece, which is nice to see. Consider this reader sufficiently chilled. I'm of course intrigued by the PG-16 rating of the story, which, along with the prologue here, promises violence and bloodshed. I'm a sucker for that. No need to serenade me with French love songs, no sirree. Just bring me the head of my enemy on a pike.

Er, anyway. I can't comment too much, as the prologue's very short. Is that a bad thing? Not at all, because it does what it set out to do, and it does it well. The length is no problem when it's written this promisingly. My only complaint with the length is that there isn't more for me to read, but I'll just have to wait for Chapter One to see how that goes. :3 Good luck!
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Old December 12th, 2011, 03:57 PM
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Chapter 1 - The Man with Green Eyes

-Six Months Ago-

I see footprints in the dirt. Two tracks: one human, one horse. I kneel closer to the ground, not caring about getting dirt on my formerly white dress. Yes, from the look of the prints, this was that scum Akiyama. The fat samurai must have only been here maybe an hour ago, for the footprints were still fresh. Good. We're getting close to our target.

My little brother, Amukai, runs up to me, a small stick in one hand and a dead rabbit hanging from the other. He has an extremely proud look on his face as he shows me the rabbit carcass. "Look, Ryla, look!" he exclaims. "I got us dinner, just like Michio!" I smile and pet his head, but at heart I am worried. He's only five years old, but already he has had his first kill. He takes after our elder brother Michio too much...

Soon, my brother notices the footprints. "Those Akiyama's?" he asks, pointing at the markings in the dirt. I nod my head yes, and gaze out in the direction the fat samurai should be. My brother grins devillishly, and suddenly becomes a deadly and powerful samurai, swinging his stick as if it were my katana and proceeding to slice the head off of Akiyama. I sigh, and glance up at the sky. Already the once blue sky is the color of cherry blossoms, as the Sun starts to set peacefully in the west. In the distance, I notice a small town. I motion for Amukai to follow me, and together, we reach the village of Samui Natsu by nightfall.

* * * * *

The last of my money is spent at the sole inn in Samui Natsu. Amukai gets a room and a bed to sleep in, but I cannot afford the same for myself. After making sure that Amukai is asleep, I decide that I want to see the statue of the Emporer, located in the very center of Samui Natsu. Once a year, this statue is vandalized and ridiculed by the townspeople. I have no great love of the Empire these days, and want to have my turn to laugh at the ridiculous face of the ruler of Nippon.

It is night in Samui Natsu, so I am the only person outside. The lack of people in is a bit eerie, but it is a fairly small village, so I shrug off the feeling as nothing. The stone statue is easy to find. The Emporer's once majestic face is covered in food scraps and all manners of trash. His would-be spectacular robes are tarnished and chipped, for it would seem that small rocks had been thrown at him. His outstreched hand should have fingers, but they have been broken off and placed... in an uncomfortable area of his body. There are vulgar words painted across his royal lips, and rocks have been shoved in his ears.

It is not as funny as I had anticipated.

Suddenly, I sense that I am not alone. I whirl around, drawing the blade I keep at my hip as I do so. Standing behind me is a smiling yound man, dressed in a black kimono with a blue belt, and carrying a torch. His long black hair is tied back into a samurai's ponytail, but his bangs hang in his face. But above all, he has deep green eyes, that seem to pierce the hardened inner sanctum of my mind. I feel myself blushing, but cannot notice that I am gradually lowering my blade. The man's lips move and form words, but I cannot hear them. I am still trapped in the endless green fields in his eyes, and there is no escape.

"Huh?" I say dumbly, realizing that I must look like a complete fool. The man laughs, and what I hear is not laughter, but the sound of a thousand bells ringing deep within his throat.

"You seem like you've been up a little too late," the man says, still smiling. "You haven't had any sake, have you?"

I make a weak attempt at laughter. "Do you have a place to sleep?" he asks good-naturedly. I nod my head yes.

"But not one with a bed," I add, looking down in shame. He laughs, and motions to a small house across the road with his lantern.

"Perhaps you'd like one of your own, then? I happen to have a spare bed." At this I grow suspicious, but I continue to watch the ground. "Would you like to sleep there?"

I glare at the man, making mental note of his facial expressions and movements. "You're not some kind of pervert, are you?"

He laughs and throws both hands in the air. "No, no pervert, I promise." For some reason, I decide to trust him.

"I would be honored to accept your invitation, sir," I begin, "but sadly, I have nothing to repay you with."

"Well, this is a problem, no?" the man asks. He thinks a moment, then eyes my blade. Realizing it is still out, I quickly sheath the sword.

"Alright, tell you what," he says finally. "Come with me to my friend Shiro's house. Bring your sword, and if you manage to pass his tests, I'll consider us even." I am a bit disturbed by this proposition, but I long to sleep in an actual bed. I haven't done so in weeks. I follow him to his home.

"By the way," the man starts, "what is your name?"

"R-Ryla."

"Beautiful name. I am Hiroaki, a warrior in for the Aokita army." The Aokita! I think. The very group of samurai who fight against scum like Akiyama. I am honored to reside at an Aokita warrior's home, even for just a single night. I wonder who this Shiro is, and what his tests will be. And I pray to the Goddess Amaterasu that Amukai will sleep safely.

* * * * *
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Old December 12th, 2011, 08:50 PM
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I must say, this was an intriguing beginning. Not a lot's happened yet, but we're getting to know what kind of a person Ryla is, what her priorities are, and most prominently the emotional, slightly poetic way she views her surroundings. I'm also liking the setting; it's giving me a kind of Ruroni Kenshin vibe. At first I was tempted to say that the description was a little overdramatic, especially in the prologue, but the more I think about it the more appropriate I think it is considering the first person, present tense narration.

Still, overwrought description is something you should keep your eye out for. I wouldn't call what you have so far to be purple prose yet, but there are some warning signs, like the elaborate way you describe Hiroaki's eyes and voice. I give you the benefit of the doubt on that one because you use his strange charm to explain Ryla's actions. Just bear in mind that flourish in description should be used judiciously (especially with eyes. Can't count how many times I've groaned at eyes being called 'orbs' of some extravagant color.)

There's not a lot else for me to comment on content-wise, as both sections are awfully short. I also notice that you posted only a few days apart. We all get really excited about posting new stuff, but if what you have feels too short it's usually best to hold off and keep writing.

I didn't notice any major grammatical problems, but I did spot a few little spelling and grammar slip-ups:

Quote:
His would-be spectaculor robes are tarnished and chipped, for it would seem that small rocks had been thrown at him.
...
I am honored to reside at an Aokita warriors home, even for just a single night.
Spelled "spectacular," and possessive "warrior's" should have an apostrophe.

tl;dr: Set-up, characters, and general vibe have me interested, and I'm looking forward to more. Good start, keep it up!
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My chapter fics:
Kanto: The Disputed Frontier - 14 chapters, indefinite hiatus. Gary Stu's Unpredictable Adventure - 8 chapters, completed. Digimon Campaign - 7 chapters, ongoing

One-shots:
There's Always Tomorrow (SWC 2009), A Matter of Stubbornness (SWC 2010), Left by the Roadside
(SWC 2011 1st place),
Giovanni Destroys the World and Everything in It (2012), By What Right? (SWC 2013 1st place), Back in the Day (SWC 2014 1st place) (New!)


Family (kind of?): Strange person who calls me strange names

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Old December 19th, 2011, 03:53 PM
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Chapter 2 - Mirror in the Forest

There is only darkness in the beginning. I look around, but I don't think I have a body to look around with, let alone a head or eyes. I am merely a spectator, helplessly awaiting whatever might emerge from the dark. I don't know whether to fear or not, but I know that at least I can fear. Silently, I gaze out into the void, searching for whatever lurks there.

Suddenly, it shows itself. It is a blurry, red image of a young boy with a sword. He is suspended about six inches in midair, an arrow screaming past him underneath his sandles. The pictur begins to move, slowly at first, then speeding up to real time. Hundreds of arrows fill the vision as the boy unleashes a bloodcurdling scream. The vision ends with the boy still upright, the arrows still clouding him from view. Slowly, it fades away back into the shadows from whence it came.

As soon as it is gone, a new picture appears. This one depicts a young man with dark armor on horseback. He holds a bloodstained sword over his head, the red liquid dripping into his hair. His face is shrowded in shadow, making it impossible for me to identify him. Like the last, this image moves, but all that happens is the blood begins to actually fall, rather than being frozen to the blade. He is laughing maniacly; his laughter is full of malice, hatred, hurt, and revenge. Despite my horror at the man, I want to let tears fall down my cheeks, if I had them, as I realize that the murderous laughter sounds more like crying. The vision ends, fading away, and I wish desperatly to see no more.

I am denied, and the third vision appears. A young woman is depicted. Her back is to me, but I can still see her white dress and the gravestone she is kneeling in front of. Arrows are flying in all directions around her, and in the background, I see houses burning. The woman has long black hair tied into a ponytail. An expertly designed farm tool - a scythe I think it's called - lies forsaken on the ground behind her. I stare at the scythe, and for some reason unknown to me, I sense that it mourns the lost alongside its mistress. The gravestone, too, is sorrowful, and the sight of the two objects together is enough to bring rainclouds to my heart. Unlike the others, this vision does not move or make sound, and it remains in front of me far longer than the others. When it finally fades, I fade with it, and dissapear into the void.


* * * *

I awake with tears running down my cheeks. What was I dreaming of?

* * * * *

Hiroaki is sipping tea, looking out a window. When he sees me walk in, he offers to make me some as well. Gratefully, I accept, and we sit together by the window. The morning world is so beautiful, with the Sun, still low in the sky, enveloping Samui Natsu in a golden light. Cherry blossoms are scattered around the village, and the small homes stand in content silence. Only the statue of the Emporer, covered in all manners of waste, corrupts the aura of peace and cheer radiating throughout Samui Natsu. I sigh, taken in by the sheer beauty of it all, and sip my tea.

"I realized last night that you must have been headed somewhere when you came to Samui Natsu," Hiroaki says, his calm and quiet voice not disrupting the peace surrounding me. "If that is so, then I would understand if you would rather not come with me to my friend's house."

"Actually," I say, "I -- or, my brother and I, were tracking a certain Imperial Samurai." At this, Hiroaki raises his eyebrows in surprise.

"Who?" he asks.

"Akiyama, the fat samurai," I spit. "He needlessly had my Uncle assassainated, and I have sworn vengance against him." Instictively, I grasp the hilt of my sword.

Hiroaki smiles. "In that case, you definitly want to visit Shiro." I look at him, puzzled. "You see, Shiro is an old samurai, and if you pass his tests, he will make you a ten times better warrior in only seven or eight months!" I am truly intrigued.

"When do we leave?"

* * * * *

With Amukai in tow, Hiroaki and I make our way through the forest towards Shiro's house. Amukai pretends to be a ninja assassain, swinging from tree branches and leaping onto rocks. I cannot help but worry. At six years, Amukai is already obsessed with warfare, the same warfare Michio was obsessed with before he left. If Amukai becomes too much like Michio, then I think the Empire has defeated us.

The forest is a beautiful place for the sight, but for my mind, forests give me a sense of dread. It was in a forest where I saw the assassain with the bloodied knife run across my path. It was in a forest that I saw Amukai and a servant, the former on horseback, leaving my beloved house in flames. It was in a forest where I saw the green leaves stained red with blood, the crucified corpse of my uncle hanging over them.

I am jolted from my thoughts as I run straight into a tree. I roll down the hill, still too stunned to make any sound. When I stop, I glance around to see if Hiroaki saw it, but to my concern, he is nowhere to be seen. Neither is Amukai. I look skywards, and find clouds grey with rain hiding the light of the Sun from the forest. I grow worried, and call out loudly the names of my companions. My only answer is my echo. I try again, and again, and again, until rain begins to fall. I scurry beneathe a tree like a field mouse searching for safety from a falcon. I sit there, waiting and hoping for Hiroaki and Amukai amidst the rain.

Suddenly, the rain stops, as though some celestial being has put its hand above our heads to catch the rain. The wind stops blowing. The leaves cease their rattling. The sudden calm gives me a feeling of great unease. I call out to my friends; this time, not even the echo answers. I feel eyes watching me, hungry eyes. I search the forest frantically for those eyes. I see plants, trees, bushes, flowers, weeds...

Then I see it. A small brown fox, silently watching me from the brush. I stare into its black eyes, full of mystery and knowledge, yet also filled with a hatred that rips my heart to shreds. I cannot escape; the eyes have chained me to them, and the more I struggle to break free, the deeper I sink. It has been a million lifetimes, already, that I have been captive. In the eyes, I see a shape forming, like a bow, bent to its limits, or a scythe...

"Hey, Ryla!" I glance up at the top of the from whence I fell. There stands Amukai, his hands waving in the air, and Hiroaki beside him, smiling down at me through the rain that I realize is falling again. The wind has returned, too, and I joyously feel it fly through my hair. I glance once more at the fox, victory written on my face. I am almost dissapointed to find that it has vanished. I run up to my friends, wondering if it had all been just a dream. Hiroaki tells me that it is only perhaps ten minutes more hiking before we reach Shiro's home. I grin for the first eight of those ten minutes, but my face falls as I realize why I truly feared the fox in the forest.

The fox's face was my face.

* * * * *
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Old January 6th, 2012, 03:49 PM
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Chapter 3 - House of Lies and Filth

As I finally emerge from the forest, triumph written clearly across my face, I find myself on a precarious ledge. Amukai nearly bumps into me, causing me to stumble forward an inch, and almost fall down the cliff. Once I have regained my balance, I look out at the area ahead. I gasp as I see the magnificent sight laid out before me.

I have never before considered that a valley, lush and green with vegetation, of this size could exist anywhere in Nippon. The one I now gaze upon looks to be the size of Kyoto and Tokyo together. A large, blue lake sits calmly in the northern most corner of the valley. It is fed by a magnificant waterfall which drops parallel to the vertical stone wall of the valley; atop the wall runs a river, long and winding, and merely thinking about it makes me shiver with cold. A barren rice field exists next to the lake, and it seems dwarfed next to its watery neighbor. I frown at the field, for though it seems an easy place to grow rice, it is devoid of any grass or grain, and dry as bone. A small wooden shacks sits along the lake as well, not far from the barren field. A large wheel extends from the wall of the hut and sits half submerged in the lake. I immediatly recognize that this building is where the sake would be brewed. From the shack leads a narrow path, adorned with stones of various shades of grey. This runs toward a much greater building. It is this building that takes my breath away the most.

Simply put, it is a temple. A Shinto arch, tall and golden, serves as a kind of gateway to the temple's entrance. The temple itself is surrounded by walls, that, while obviously of great age, still appear sturdy. The roof of the building is curved, not unlike temples of the mainland. The temple's walls are painted white, with shining gold trimmings. There are no windows, giving the temple a cozy feel. Yes, perhaps the paint is peeling in spots, and if you look closely you can see decaying in the walls fencing the temple, but overall I think it's magnificent, and I am eager to go to it. I turn to my companions, intending to urge them on quickly towards the majestic building. To my concern, Hiroaki, who stands beside me, looks at the same temple, and his mood seems to sour. With a small huff, he leaps onto the steep slope before us, sliding rather than walking towards the temple. His black hair flies wildly behind him as he surfs effortlessly on the mud, past trees and assorted plants. Amukai laughs, and follows Hiroaki, choosing to roll down the slope. I cannot help but smile at his merriment, then carefully make my way after them.

* * * * *

"Ow!" I exclaim, recoiling from the old man's blow. It really didn't hurt so much as surprise me. I hadn't expected him to hit me!

Shiro tuts and shakes his head. "She is too weak, she is," he mutters, puting the cane he used to hit me back between both hands. "Her skin is little more than paper, and her bones like the sticks of the forest." The old man is, to say the least, not how I had expected him to be. He stands hunched over his cane, the tip of his bald head not going past my waist. His head strangely reminds me of a melon; it is wider than it is tall, with oversized ears potruding obscenely at the long ends. His mouth, too was wide, and devoid of teeth, save one decaying bone the sat alone on his jaw. He may have had a beard once, but now only short and random scruffs of white fur show on his chin. His eyes were small and placed too far away from each other. They were a dark brown in color, almost black, and the irises were so large that no white showed. His clothes, too, seemed very unlike a samurai's. The blue kimono he wore was faded, stained, and even torn in some places.

"But, Master..." Hiroaki protests. I notice his eyebrows are closely knit together, and when paired with his frowning mouth, one can see his scowl.

"No buts, Hiroaki," Shiro says, waving him away. "You have wasted my time with this pup, and I expect to be compensated." A devilish grin spreads across his face as he eyes my sword greedily. "That blade, my dear," he says to me, "will do nicely."

"My sword?" I repeat, taken aback by his request. "I-I'm afraid you don't understand, Honorable Master." Beside me, Amukai stifles a giggle at my way of adressing the ragged old man. I glare at him, then return my attention to Shiro. "This sword once belonged to my uncle, a great warrior named Hisoka. I could not bear to part with it."

"Yes, Hisoka of the Blood-stained Flag. I know well of his tale, and I recognized the sword," Shiro says flatly. Once again, I am surprised by his rudeness. "I will ask once more, child, before I take it from you. Give me the sword!" Feeling now that my sword is worth much more than I orignally thought, I unhook the scabbard from my belt and hug it close to me.

"That wasn't really asking," I say. Shiro snarls.

"Hiroaki?" he says, turning his attentioned to the black-robed man. Hiroaki stares at his master darkly, waiting for the command. I am suddenly afraid, and hurt. Hiroaki is my friend! Shiro nods at Hiroaki, and the latter comes over to me. I stare frantically into his angry gresn eyes, unable to move. I grip the sword even tighter when Hiroaki raises one hand. He holds it there, as if deciding whether he wants to strike me or not. I fearfully await his descision, then find myself on the floor, a pain on my cheek. The sword clatters to the floor at Hiroaki's feet, who ignores it and stares at me with an expression of extreme sadness.

"Good, Hiroaki," Shiro chortles. "Now, bring me the sword. Akiyama will pay good money for it, I wager." The old man wheezes with laughter, but Hiroaki continues to stare at me, pain etched in his expression. Beside me, Amukai watches the scene in fear, unable to do anything but cry. Hiroaki's expression changes suddenly, and the misery already encased within the green of his eyes becomes fused with seething fury. He slowly kneels to pick up the sword, then rises and turns to Shiro. The old man holds out his greedy hands, impatient for the blade. Then, so quick i almost miss it, Hiroaki pounces on Shiro, driving the unsheathed steel into the old man's left shoulder. Shiro stands silent at first, too shocked to feel pain. Then he howls and drops to his knees. Polls of blood stains the already ruined blue kimono. Hiroaki swiftly removes the blade, then fiercly tears off a piece of Shiro's kimono to wipe the redness from the shining silver blade.

"Go," Hiroaki says ominously. "Leave this temple that you have defiled with your deeds. Leave, you pretender, so that I can cleanse this house of lies and filth. Go, or die where you kneel." Here, Hiroaki puts the blade to Shiro's neck. The old man looks up at his former apprentice, eyes pleading, then gets up and runs away. Satisfied, Hiroaki gracefully sheaths my sword.

"G-good riddance," Amukai says, and sticks his tounge at Shiro's back.

Nobody laughs.

* * * * *
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